Melodrama In 'Ali: Fear Eats The Soul'

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Melodrama is often dismissed as cheap storytelling, a genre that concerns itself more with the audience’s escapism to a world of exaggerated emotion than with any critical discourse. The films—rife with themes of conflict, love, betrayal, suffering and sacrifice—deliberately provide the viewer with an exaggerated emotional rollercoaster. Focusing on ordinary people, melodramas unabashedly seek to manipulate our emotions and present an almost out-of-body experience. But the genre’s power lies chiefly in its contradictions. The very overtness of melodrama lends itself to a peculiar self-aware quality. Through a sophisticated mix of irony and exaggerated, forthright emotion, melodrama offers an opportunity for the spectator to not only examine their surroundings, but to look inward. The irony of watching an melodrama is that, because of its overt escapism, the viewer is more aware of the act of watching than in other genres. The viewer is…show more content…
I will explore how Fassbinder uses this stylized mise-en-scene to explore two conflicting levels of oppression through the use of two expressive figures. Sirk, as Fassbinder noted, said that “lighting and camera angles constitute the philosophy of the director.”In Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, Fassbinder creates a stylized decor to evoke a hostile social environment ripe for failure. A Kaes notes, Fassbinder’s films evoke Sirk’s style by “making use of melodramatic plots, “unrealistic” lighting, obtrusive camera movements, and artificial, highly stylized décor.” Fassbinder’s high stylization of mise-en-scene, acting, and dialogue, all call into focus, as Fassbinder put it, “the nature of being observed,” and the also highlight the conflicting power relations between Emmi and Ali. Overly melodramatic music breaks the illusion of empathy, and, as Kae puts it, “theatrical gestural language keeps the viewer at a critical distance despite the open display of strong

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