For Rainer Werner Fassbinder, the motivation behind creating films, as he did so prolifically between 1966 and 1982 , was essentially political. It was through this medium that he felt most able to contribute to the debate over the ever-changing internal politics of his nation, Germany, and to the universal debate over sexuality and gender roles that was emerging as laws and taboos on these subjects began to be reassessed and liberalised. Never opting for simplicity over controversy, it comes as no surprise, therefore, that Fassbinder should choose to explore the issue of racism in Fear Eats the Soul (henceforth referred to as FETS) at a time when Germany was choosing to direct its pent-up anger against Gastarbeiter . In a country that he considered too conservative, conformist, spießerhaft' and charged with latent violence' (Elsaesser, 1996: 25), he also deals with the issues of ageism and crossing social boundaries. I would like to explore how Fassbinder effectively employs the concepts of contradiction, contrast and exploitation in this film, i.e. concepts which are fundamental to an understanding of his work and world and which serve to provoke and unsettle the spectator. I will also show how the audience's feelings of malaise are augmented by employing specific cinematic techniques and challenging established ideas on the gaze'. Furthermore, I will explain how Fassbinder, who believed that positive images are elaborate utopian deceptions and [ ] prefers an educative pessimism' (Medhurst, 1996: 20), developed the melodrama genre to suit his creative needs.
One reviewer has stated that one of Fassbinder's greatest abilities is to call into question everything that the society in the film (and the audience too) accepted and believed in' . Central to this film is the way that he contrasts and contradicts one scene with the next, in order to make the spectator question what he has just accepted.