*Disclaimer – All my opinions are just personal and subjective guess and interpretation of the film, and not to be representative of the film itself.
E’Tzaintes was a f***king personal film in a good way. It felt very authentic in nature, like a person’s real experiences of being bullied, ostracized, and feeling like a misfit in the external world being embodied and input into the film’s plot and dialogue. I wonder if the black comedy, youth rebellion and violence theme was inspired by the novel-cum- film – A Clockwork Orange? Faeryville seems to be inspired by A Clockwork Orange too.
According to his biography in wikipedia:
Tzang Merwyn Tong made his debut film [e’TZAINTES], a no-budget teenage black comedy, when he was 19 years old, with no prior knowledge in filmmaking. It tells the story of social misfits who band together to stand up against oppression. The film was made guerrilla style, under tight budget constraints, with no professional actors, but attracted international attention when it premiered at film festivals,making its European Premiere as the Opening Night Film of the Berlin Asia Pacific Film Festival.
According to Tzang Merwyn Tong Vimeo’s account:
Teenage black comedy about rejection and rebellion in the new world. Made-in-Singapore underground film by cult director Tzang Merwyn Tong. Shot with only $200. 30 in the cast. 3 in the crew (Tzang, Rizal Rahman, Lee Amizadai, and a few others). This is guerilla filmmaking no-holds-barred!
Winner of the Bronze Remi Award (Independent/ Experimental Category) WorldFest Houston 2003
Opening Night Film at the 2004 Berlin Asia-Pacific Film Festival.
Comparison to Faeryville
e’Tzaintes very much focused on school issues itself e.g. cliques, bullied victims, teachers not intervening to stop bullying, where as Faeryville had more broad analogies of events faced in the world. For Faeryville, it felt like the theme of bullying acted merely as a background story placed, so as to allow the plot to explore other areas and analogies of world issues.
Though e’Tzaintes was a black comedy, I found Faeryville’s dialogue funnier during the lighter scenes, whereas e’Tzaintes was a “heavier” film, with a “melancholy” atmosphere. e’Tzaintes had a more structured plot, but the ending was too hasty. It somehow reminded me of Romeo and Juliet. When one thought the other was dead, he also killed himself.
I could sense the real emotions and experiences placed into the film by the writer Tzang. As youths and a small crew (not counting in the many actors), Tzang was more direct and raw when translating his inner emotions and thoughts he has into the film script itself. Whereas for Faeryville, it was produced by a big team with many heads and ideas when re-editing the script, also required even longer planning and as such, the dialogue and storyline is more “processed” and less personalised in nature.
Chole (Faeryville) reminded me of Alicia in e’Tzaintes. They are both pretty, and know what trouble to not get into. When the bully was interested in her, she totally ignored him, most likely because she does not like his character. “We choose our own addictions” – a phrase Faeke said also reminded me of Chloe from Faeryville where she also said that – she chooses her own trouble.
Laer (Faeryville character) seemed to be a mix of the Neo-Nazi guy and Faeke, and Laer’s character background story is slightly similar to Wynn’s. Ck’s (Faeryville’s character) personality seems to be inspired by Wynn too.
The Indian bully acted very well 🙂
Tzang was 19 at that time, and the dialogue and sentence structures were intelligently expressed in a creative and artistic language, with use of poetry too. The image created for Faeke reminded me of Edward Scisssorshands and a magician combined. At first, I thought Faeke was part of Wynn’s imagination but he was actually real.
The actors didn’t look like they were 19 though. They all looked quite matured, like university-aged.
Superficiality in the World
Everyone in school is just putting up a front and image to fit in or look cool. The writer of the film – Tzang seems to dislike fakeness of people.
One scene where the girl was pretending to say something smart just to appear intelligent, and when her friends asked her what she meant, she implied that she just blindly read from the paper. She later shared that she liked this actor a lot, but once her friends started to thrash on him, she conformed and stayed silent straight away, instead of speaking up or continuing to gush about him.
Backstreet boys was used as an analogy of the cool jocks, like the real life band where girls gush over them. Tzang also seems to value honesty a lot, being true to oneself, as we live in a world of pretense and image.
“I write, therefore I’m deep bullshit.” (Faeke)
With Power comes Control, and I’m no longer invisible
The bullied or ostracised victims are often ignored, and the bullied victim feels undervalued, unappreciated and unneeded as no one gives a shit about him. Which is why they may do certain things just to gain the respect and prominence they often lacked in their life e.g. Faeke scaring his bully with the occult, which eventually led to the latter’s death. Or Wynn only feeling empowered or recognised only when there is the gun in his hand.
“We can talk about this son” (Principal)
“You guys fear me now because of the gun in my hand. Without it. I’m nothing..You guys will put me and jail, and believe I’ve caused his death.” (Wynn)
“I’m going to die with the world at my feet. Thank you Faeke.” (Wynn)
Even the principal went to the extent to call Wynn “son” just to pacify him. What an irony to his initial blind eye towards the bullied victims. Without the gun in Wynn’s hand, he is not feared, and goes back to being an “unimportant” nothing, where no one even knows his name, or bother to ask about him.
“An eye for an eye that makes the whole world blind.” (Faeke)
To get revenge at the bullies for shooting his best friend Faeke, Wynn decides to take his life too. Maybe so that the school will be made responsible for both deaths of the students (him and Faeke). And if he did not, the school would most probably used him as a scapegoat to claim that he is responsible for Faeke’s death.
The writer Tzang might have been bullied and have teachers who turned a blind eye against his bullies actions, or do little to help him in the situation even though they very well know he was being bullied, like how the principal in the film did the same. It reminded me of a real life incident I know where because the student’s father was a rich man with a certain reputation; the school might have treated him leniently during a fighting case. In the case of the film, the bully’s father was the principal.
e’Tzaintes and Faeke hinted in Faeryville
Faeryville – LAER: [Pointing at the altar of W. Ashe Faeke] You know it’s a joke. You know it’s a lie. A lie so important it’s become a god-damn religion.
In Faeryville – (if I did not remember wrongly) the students were told that Faeke had killed himself when in fact, he was shot by one of his bullies as seen in e’Tzaintes. But the principal most likely covered that up as the student that shot him was his son’s friend.
Connections in the real world really does make a difference, It can help you get away scott free when you make mistakes, and tools of media and those in power can become a manipulation ground to deviate the public from the truth.
E’Tzaintes and Faeryville are most likely from the same world as you see the Mother Mary look-alike statue in both films. They could be at a different timespan, with Faeryville being a few decades after E’Tzaintes time period? In that sense, Faeryville is a sequel to e’Tzaintes?
I’m guessing the statue represents the weak and holy who are usually the one’s being bullied, and the ones that end up taking their lives as the only mean to protect themselves and fend off the bullies who are in the form of – school bullies, and school personals who do little to help the victimized students.
Imbalanced Media Portrayal in the Real World
The film labeled the bystanders as “audience” to imply that bystanders usually do nothing when they see people bullied, choosing to sit at one corner and just watch the bullied victims being bullied like how they are watching a film.
It could be a reference to US college campus shootings where the weirdos, bullied or ostracized decides to shoot the students/teachers and it has become a norm, that people become used to it when they see it on the television news, and just move on with their own lives. But, people do not question – what causes these kids to shoot their students and teachers? What is the backstory behind it? Is what the media portray really comprehensive and balanced?
The public only knows that the kid is perceived as “abnormal” and “socially-inept” in the community and school, and that he shot many people before taking his own life as a result. But, NO. NO one even stops to think about what led to the kid’s actions? Was it his peers who did not provide the essential respect, support and interaction he needed? Or problems he had at home or personal e.g. self-esteem which could be caused by poor social connections once again.
“I feel sorry for you..For you believe of all these lies Faeryville has made for you” (Faeke)
Did the school, the principal, teachers, and school newspapers (representing mainstream media in the real world) tell the bullies inaccurate information about Faeke occult and scare tactics?
One scene where the “faggot” character squeezed the balls and kissed the bully, I interpreted it as humiliating the latter by reducing his masculinity in front of everyone.
Faeke said that the “faggot”” character was pretending to be gay. I think what he meant was the “faggot” character was pretending to put on a flamboyant image just to get the attention of his peers, and that he was not really “gay” in nature.
“Come off it Wynn, I’m not a faggot”
was Faeke reply when Wynn asked what he was getting at. This makes me wonder – is Faeke’s character supposed to be secretly gay? Since he jokingly responded to Wynn that he was not a “faggot” just to prove that he is not attracted to Wynn, when Wynn wasn’t even directing the question in that direction.
“Leave us alone”
At the end of the film, you see Faeke’s hand on Wynn’s shoulder, and Wynn finally stood up to the bullies for once when they were picking on Faeke. It was a contrast compared to the past where he would just sit quietly in fear and helplessness. He also considered Faeke his best friend. When Faeke was shot, Wynn also chose to take his life. This made me wonder – are they more than best friends? – because of these subtle hints.
I didn’t get the last part though (where Wynn wore Faeke’s hat, took on Faeke’s persona and introduced himself as the next Faeke) although I knew those few sentences were of great importance to the film’s ending message.
Soundtrack and Costume
The Neo-Nazi movement was implied in the film as seen from the flag on the character’s shirt, and they are likely to be frowned upon by mainstream society. One character also wore the shirt with a Japan’s flag as the picture.
Hitler came from a dysfunctional family where he was hit by his dad. This could have led to his subconscious desire to control and do the same back to communities he didn’t like. Similar to how the bullied becomes a bully?
I liked the punk rock and metallic sounds, the heavy bass and electric guitar and drums. Even some of the costumes seemed to have been influenced from the Neo-Nazi and punk rock fashions.
I wonder if there are any parentage links to any of the characters in e’Tzaintes and Faeryville? But I’m not too sure as some of the character’s ethnicities do not match (Principal was indian in e’Tzaintes, but a westerner in Faeryville, though the progress of their age might fit.)
In Faeryville, there is the writing on the wall which was a catchphrase of Faeke. Who else could have written that catchphrase then, since it belonged to Faeke? Did Faeke die? Or did he survived but was placed somewhere in secret?
The cycle of bullying is like a destructive cycle – The bully bullies the victim. The bullied victim decides to become bullies themselves to gain the control and respect they want. And in the end, everyone gets hurt. And the bystanders who are the one’s that can actually do something about it ends up not doing nothing. The bullied victims who fight back through violent means e.g. school shootings are despised. But everyone tends to forget the root of bullying may be due to issues back a home swept below the carpet, or the bystanders who do little help, and the school systems which may close one eye when such things happen.
Feel free to check out – Faeryville’s film review
To check out our other articles on Faeryville e.g. soundtrack, themes analysis, film review, click HERE
Written by: Cass
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