Angst essen Seele auf (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1974)

The opening scene of this great love story haunted me forever.

An old woman, Emmi (Brigitte Mira) soaked in the rain outside takes shelter in a bar. There are only a few people inside who all turn to look at her. She timidly asks for a Coke and sits herself at the farthest table possible. At the bar, there is Ali (El Hedi ben Salem) who seems interested in her right from the first moment she enters in. Later, to the others’ surprise, he goes to her table and asks her for a dance. Thus begins Ali and Emmi’s story, against all judgment from everyone around them.

Angst_essen_Seele_auf_02Picture 4Angst_essen_Seele_auf_04Angst_essen_Seele_auf_05Angst_essen_Seele_auf_06

Is it her timidity that makes this scene so touching and memorable or the way that Ali looks at her – with the hint of a smile, the hint of who he is? Or is it that all the other characters are frozen sort of like props, soulless? Is it the abrupt camera movement that (celebratively) overemphasises the magnetic field between them? Is it the sudden change of music, from sadness/stability to joy/rhythm?

Every detail that makes up  this scene is so beautiful and harmonious, so out of place, so artificial yet natural and familiar. That is probably why it never leaves me.

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5 thoughts on “Angst essen Seele auf (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1974)

  1. “So artificial yet natural and familiar” is the best way to describe the opening scene of Fassbinder’s masterpiece. It is, after all, extremely unrealistic that this particular woman would ever wander into this particular bar. And yet, the film is a nod to Sirk-style melodramas, and this contrivance has to happen in order to put these characters from different walks of life together. Happiness is not always fun indeed!

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