Mababangong Bangungot [Perfumed Nightmare], 1977

Mababangong Bangungot [Perfumed Nightmare] (1977)
Director: Kidlat Tahimik
The Philippines
Narrative | 93 minutes
Tagalog with English and Arabic subtitles
Film Still


This is a 1970s road movie with particular grit. Tahimik’s autobiographical mode is a tumble of the ethnographic mixed with dramatised historical fiction. The jeepney journey beyond his land of all things happily colonised in downtown Manila is flipped in tone as Tahimik makes his first trip to Europe, where all too quickly the effects of modernisation and its capitalist addiction to technology trigger cynical disillusion. Perfumed Nightmare is Tahimik’s most recognised visual text, arguably the first in a lineage of essay films that demonstrate (thus empowering) his decolonising gaze. Here Tahimik is the Shakespearian provocateur, his comically acid descriptions of the conspiracy of the West and its non-consolatory gestures towards the blight of its actions and assumptions are laid bare via a humorous weaving of cultural conflict between his indigenous locality and its blind consumption of Western values.

Francis Ford Coppola said, ‘I felt Americans had to see one of my favorite independent films—for its non-Hollywood strengths!’ Fredric Jameson characterised the film as ‘a jeepney, which crosses back and forth between the First and Third Worlds’. Perfumed Nightmare is truly a pioneer of ‘Third World Cinema’.