FAERYVILLE – a film with alternative themes like Bullying, Ideology and Rebellion

Disclaimer: My thoughts and analysis of the film is solely my personal one, and should not be misrepresented as that of Faeryville’s film direction and message.

Faeryville is a local independent 2015 film made by INRI Studio founder-cum-director Mr Tzang Merwyn Tong, which took 14 rewrites and 8 years in the making.

Calling it a modern myth, the director envisioned what he felt the future of societies may be like. And prophetically, it seems like the future has peaked quite early…

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Interview

When asked why he used a dystopian setting                                                                                                        I want to express things without anybody or any establishment thinking that I’m talking about them as ..honestly as I can and setting it in an imaginary fictitious setting where I can dictate my own rules on what a system is. It just frees me to do whatever I want with my characters and story.

If his film had political analogies                                                                                                                        “That’s not what I set out to do. It’s more of a critique on the understanding of ideology, rebellion, regimes and a harsh look at both sides from the system, establishment to resistance.”

How he wants the film to impact Singaporean youths                                                                                     I want young people to see that films..can be different. We can think differently. We can walk out, challenge the status quo and not be afraid to be imaginative in whatever forms of expression.

When I reflected on the controversial meaning and themes – I found the film very relevant to universal issues. The quotes below are what the various characters said in the film.

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STRUCTURED SYSTEMS & HIERACHY

Intelligently set in a dystopian era with an US style high school setting – I felt the director had used the school structure and youth issues as indirect analogies of real world problems and systems.

My personal interpretation of what the film’s school hierarchy symbolizes in reality: Principal = Highest Power (his hair reminded me of Lee Kuan Yew’s), Fraternity = Privileged (Elitist), Students = Mainstream Society, The Nobodies = Minorities, Belle = Anarchists

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CONTROL

With power, comes control. When you are afraid of losing control, you’ll do anything to keep in control.

“It’s not about power. It’s about fear. Fear of losing control..We all know how fear and power controls everything. But what we don’t know is that those in power are actually the ones who are afraid.”

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THE COOL KIDS, ELITISM, AND PRIVILEGE

In Singapore, there are labels placed on schools – elite and neighborhood, or certain educational routes seen as a better long-term pathway than the other. In any school, there is also social hierarchy – with the popular cliques being more favoured over the not-so-popular nerds or misfits. Prospective leaders may be eyed from an early age, and honed to become future ministers.

“Parties like these belong to the privileged ones in our privileged school.”

“We have a tradition of fraternities here in Faeryville college. One that offers life long bonds. Friendships that extend well beyond your academic age.”

“There are two paths that you may choose here in Faeryville College. One prepares you for greatness and all that the world has to offer; the other is the road of the misguided, a path filled with resistance and romantic distractions.”

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BULLYING

The film supports local anti-bullying advocacy organisation Coalition Against Bullying for Children and Youth (CABCY). A major theme in his film – the film protagonists were often subjected to bullying, which is a very prevalent youth issue – be it physical, verbal, cyber or ostracization.

“These are the same kids who pick on us everyday. The ones who call us losers and make us feel like … Nobodies…We’re used to being pushed around. Like it or not, fraternities rule. We’ve come to accept it.”

LAER: “.. You have to live, study, eat and sleep with people who hate you just as much as you hate them. You learn how to defend yourself.”
POE: “Ho ho. Were you bullied?”
LAER: “All the time. But I learn to push back. I learn to always get up and push back.”

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IDENTITY EXPLORATION & SOCIETAL ROLES

When we become adults, we tend to conform to roles that society impose on us, losing our experimental spirit. One main theme of the film was the nobodies (the clique who saw themselves as misfits) figuring our their identity e.g. sexuality, morality, friendships, and substances, and using different outlets to express their defiance or uncertainty.

“That’s all the time we’ve left. To truly find ourselves..We’re the Nobodies – with no purpose, and no need for one. Tired of trying to fit in – happy to be who we are than try to be what we’re not.”
TAURUS: “Chicks. (Shouting over the music) Lots of chicks doin’ hot chick stuff.”
CK: “What hot chick stuff? I wanna see! (Stretching his neck)”

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LABELS, FOREIGNERS, AND XENOPHOBIA

We often placed labels on each another which only causes fights and divide. There is often this mentality that westerns are more capable or “atas” than Asians. Some Singaporeans also complain of foreigners taking away their rice bowl, or expatriates being given exclusive packages. Xenophobia or tension between diverse communities are common.

In the film, some of the bullies and fraternities seem to be of foreign nationalities whereas the protagonists – the nobodies, were made up of an Asian cast and often picked on constantly by the former. Taurus, the character that enjoyed making mechanical toys e.g. bombs, was played by a malay actor. Not sure if it was an analogy of  Terrorism and Extremism. But once again, I have to emphasised that Islam and Terrorism but two entirely separate thing, and should not be mistakenly associated.

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IDEOLOGY & VIOLENCE

When ideology is taken to an extreme, the line between right and wrong becomes blur. It may become a blind tool for communities e.g. different race, religion and extreme groups to fight or show displeasure against one another e.g. terrorism, US gun laws – school or suspected racial-motivated shootings. When the bullied is overwhelmed with helplessness or anger, and decides the only choice is to fight back e.g. college campus shootings.

“Ideology can be a dangerous thing. Especially in the hands of the young and misinformed.”

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REBELLION AND ITS CONSEQUEUNCES

When we rebel against your school structure or system, what are the repercussions? When you do the same in the adult world? What are the consequences? All-out anarchy for bloodshed and fiery?

“‘Why do teenagers find the need to rebel? That (rebellion) is the only way they know how to express themselves.. and that is why we have systems to keep things in place.”

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EDUCATION & CULTURE

In Asian societies, the education structure and culture shapes us at times to blindly conform without questioning, which restricts our minds from creativity and critical thinking. We may give up alternative mindsets or pathways to conform to mainstream social norms or expectations.

“Teenagers need to be saved from their own ideals. Minds can be moulded and the wrong-doers can change if they are given a second chance. That is what education is all about..Education is suppose to equip people with the right knowledge but sadly, there are still those who want anarchy and chaos”

“One prepares you for greatness and all that the world has to offer; the other is the road of the misguided, a path filled with resistance and romantic distractions.”

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MIND CONTROL, MANIPULATION, AND BEHAVIOURAL MODIFICATION 

Project MKUltra, brutality in US interrogation methods towards terrorists, political prisoners, ISA (Internal Security Act, corruption in government, authorities and judiciary system around the world.

“I’ve asked for the young lady to be placed under Fraternal Care (more whispers). Fraternal Care in Faeryville college itself.. so that she can be corrected.

Relating back to the film, Belle is an anarchist in the film who rebelled against the school system and often uploaded online videos. She had to go through mandatory counseling sessions, which felt more like an interrogation torture session to “correct” her mindset. The scene reminded me of a police station or prison compound room. The lights were kept bright, most likely making her unable to sleep well.

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 Backgrounds of lower class

Income inequality and dysfunctional families may be other underlying themes. Behind-close-doors, there may be many family issues a child face, or coming from a less “perfect” background, which significantly impacts their perspectives and attitudes when they become older. The clothes of the nobodies are darker and dull, versus the bright and neat clothes worn by the privileged students.

POE: “What’s it like in a foster home?”
LAER: “It’s a place that no kid wants to be by choice. You have to live, study, eat and sleep with people who hate you just as much as you hate them. You learn how to defend yourself.”
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ABUSE TOWARDS WOMEN
In some societies, the status of men are deemed as above women e.g. it may even be common for husbands to hit a wife, and at many times – women stay on in abusive relationships. Rape, College rapes, cat-calling and sexual objectification of women, are prominent social topics too. Once of the scene where the “counsellor” gives Belle an unsettling gaze, could it be an analogy of physical abuse by men in power towards women during political detainment?
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POLITICAL HISTORY AND CENSORSHIP
 
W. Ashe Faeke – I was initially lost and perplexed about what his character meant in the film. I knew the storyline of Faeryville roots were from e’Tzaintes – Tzang’s film shot in 1999, and that this character was of great essence to the director.
I think W. Ashe Faeke represents figures who stories and identities go unheard, or are portrayed in a biased manner as we are taught little about them in our history textbooks, and they not mentioned objectively in the mainstream media? I cannot remember exactly, but Laer exclaimed that W.Ashe Faeke did not simply die of suicide as what people think, but that there are hidden aspects of the whole matter (most probably influencing his death) not known to the people around them.
W .Ashe Fake – is actually “Was he fake”. Is it to symbolize and question whether information about what we read, see, or hear about certain famous figures are fake or real?
Afterthoughts:
Tzang was 19 years old when he first embarked on his film journey. What he actually envisioned in the dystopian storyline are really occurring at it’s peak now e.g. Amos Yee Saga, prominence of college shootings, bullying incident and Elitism in Singapore made big in social media, Terrorism. Many of such incidents are actually either ongoing for many decades, or made prominent only recently. The fact that he could guess the future, and also make changes to his plot based on how the world progressed, it makes the themes of the film as relevant as ever 🙂
To check out our articles on Faeryville e.g. soundtrack, themes analysis, film review, click HERE

Written by: Cass

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6 thoughts on “FAERYVILLE – a film with alternative themes like Bullying, Ideology and Rebellion

  1. Actually having a fictitious setting, an imaginary world where one gets to set ones own rules, also helps when the way you see the world is so different, cultural referents and unstated rules of normalcy feels viscerally foreign.

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  2. Nolmacy didnt feel foreign to me when I watched the film. Rather, the film reiterated to me the possible outcomes of rebelling against systems, norms and enemies, be it blindly, emotionally driven or with awareness – for goals which may or may not, or may be too idealistic for reality. With the high school n fictitious setting, like what the director said, I think it liberates his work in a sense where he has the freedom to express and show what he wants without getting into trouble with censorship or real life systems or communities the film may appear to be talking about.

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  3. Oh apologies. I was not talking about the film. I was refering to a possible rationale of using such kind of setting in fiction or script writing. Unfortunately i didn’t watch it.

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