From its opening scenes, Ruin plunges the viewer into a world of violence and suffering with grim authenticity. Set in contemporary Cambodia, the film follows young friends, Sovanna and Phirun, who together find brief moments of mutual solace in otherwise brutal lives. Directors, Michael Cody and Amiel Courtin-Wilson, paint a harrowing picture of existence; Ruin imagines a world that is defined by misogyny, where the capacities for exploiting the poor and desperate appear relentless, and Sovenna and Phirun are forced to survive against desperate odds.
Sang Malen and Rous Mony deliver strong performances, often using gestures and movements to create their characters. This emphasis on performance is punctuated with a camera style that shifts from claustrophobic, hand-held shots of town and city streets and dank apartments with calm, almost-serene dreamlike images of the world beyond the city. Whether through the movements of water in the river or the slow dance of flames against the night, these sequences are poetic and haunting, in contrast to the air of imminent violence elsewhere. A powerful soundtrack that combines minimalist drones, tones and shimmering shapes, which add to the haunted atmosphere of the world, build upon the mood. At times these worlds seem to contrast too much, but the tension is carefully maintained throughout, adding to the movie’s style.
Ruin demands much of the audience, but it makes for necessary and ultimately rewarding viewing.