Alluring monsters

Malaysia / Singapur / Kino / Film / Postkolonialismus / Weiblichkeit <Motiv> / Feministische Filmtheorie / Filmanalyse

As famous in Southeast Asia as Dracula is in the West, the pontianak is a terrifying, fanged female vampire who is a much-loved and much-feared monster in Malay cultures. In traditional folklore, the pontianak is a woman who has died as a result of male violence or childbirth and whose return upsets the gender, political, and social norms of Malay society. A central figure in traditional Malay culture, the pontianak was also a crucial figure in postcolonial Malaysia and Singapore, and a staple of their national cinemas. The return to pre-colonial myth during the founding of the postcolonial nations of Malaysia and Singapore reveals cinema’s role in popular culture’s depiction of and engagement with the tensions of decolonization. Rosalind Galt argues that the postcolonial pontianak registers a series of intersecting anxieties: about femininity and modernity; about local and transnational cultural influences; about the relationship of Islam to indigenous beliefs; and about urbanization and globalization. Rosalind Galt begins her study in colonial Malay when the film industry was an amalgam of Indian, Chinese, Malaysian, and British influences and follows the pontianak film from the 1950s to Singapore’s independence in 1965 to the present where it has reemerged in Malaysia as religious-based censorship has loosened in the 2000s. In addition to the films themselves, Galt considers how these films traveled around the region, and their reception by fans around the world.