Rainer Werner Fassbinder was one of the most important representatives of the New German Movement which lasted less than fifteen years. Fassbinder completed 40 feature-length films, three short films, two television film series, four video productions, twenty-four stage plays, four radio plays and 36 acting roles in his own and others’ films. And out of all of his various projects Ali: Fear Eats the Soul is looked at as his most admired masterpiece. Ali: Fear Eats the Soul tells the simplistic and tender story on two people who love one another, and are completely different in age and race. The bigotry and hate that these two receive from others only because of simply trying to express their love publicly is heartbreaking, as you see two people who clearly want to be together, and yet friends, family and society won't allow it. Most of Rainer Werner Fassbinder's themes deal with people who are outsiders of society, probably because Fassbinder felt he himself was an outsider struggling with his homosexuality since he was a young boy. His father died when he was very young, and his mother used the movie theater as a baby-sitter. After starting out in theatre and eventually moving into films many critics thought his films were exploitative on a persons sexuality, but over time Fassbinder's work is now looked at as some of the most important and poetic films of the early 70's to the late 80's.
The story of Ali: Fear Eats the Soul can be looked at as a heartfelt homage to Douglas Sirk's soapy melodramas of the 1950's as he has spoke with great admiration about Sirk, but he did not copy him. In the films of Sirk it should be noted, according to Fassbinder, that the director “loves human beings and doesn’t despise them as we do.” The most iconic scene in Ali: Fear Eats the Soul is when Emmi informs her children that she has gotten married. Fassbinder uses the camera lens to zoom and pan across the silent shocked faces of her children, as one son whirls around in his chair, stands up and then kicks in the screen of her television set. If Fassbinder loved the older melodramatic American soaps of Douglas Sirk it was probably because his personal life seemed to play out like a soap as well. El Hedi ben Salem who played Ali in the film was Fassbinder's lover from 1971 to 1974, though he also had a wife and two children in Morocco, and during this period he played several roles in Fassbinder's films. One night while intoxicated, Salem seriously injured three people by stabbing them multiple times. He then came back to Fassbinder and said, "Now you don't have to be afraid anymore." He was then deported to France, where he later hung himself in prison.