FEAR EATS THE SOUL (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1974)

So, further to surprise finds… Came across this in CeX. Hadn’t previously come across it anywhere, although vaguely recognised the title. Turns out it’s a key text of the New German Cinema. Of which I know even less than the French New Wave.

So much for context. The film’s a sort of austere melodrama, if that ain’t too contradictory, about the chance meeting and unlikely marital union between a cleaning lady in late middle-age and a much younger Moroccan immigrant. The marriage meets with everyone’s bigoted disapproval, to what can seem slightly overstated effect today; a silent, static tableau of her appalled family absorbing the information (before one of them gets up and kicks the TV in) carries a certain comical charge, for sure.

But as much as the grim and tawdry outside world’s small-minded nimbyism gets it in the neck, the film is as good on its protagonists’ own human frailty, as the uniform hostility escapable only in their home gets internalized for the sake of a quiet life, and the marriage flounders; he starts seeing younger women, she starts showing him off, in crassly demeaning and objectifying ways, to her fair-weather friends. Still, the final resolution is compassionate, hopeful, and nearly but not quite undermined by circumstance; live and let live is a courtesy worth extending to your other half, we realise, if it’s really to mean anything.


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