I love movies. I love writing about them. Hope you like reading what I write.
Movies like this are at once easy to talk about and incredibly difficult. This is one of those movies that tries to be something more. It tries to challenge the way we think about narrative and cinema and love stories. It is, to put it bluntly, artsy.
Ruined Heart is a surreal, gritty, musical, Philippine romance film. Its extended title gives a clear indication of the way it twists our traditional viewpoints on what would, if handled by pretty much any other director, would in fact be “Another Love Story”.
I am particularly good at recommending films for people to watch. Once I get to know a person, I internally craft a profile on what movies they would like and what movies they would not. It’s one of the reasons why I structure my reviews around a “Recommended Scenario” rather than the traditional star system.
What most people tell me, at least in my friend circles, is that they don’t want to watch anything too “artsy”. Artsy in this context is an adjective describing something which goes against traditional rules for cinematic storytelling. These sorts of films often have the ability to alienate the general population, while making snobby film critics (myself included) play with our beards and say “That was transcendent” or “That was surely a tour-de-force”. I can honestly see why most people would rather not watch some of these films that are often, at least on the surface, slow, confusing or just downright pretentious and if you hold that opinion, you have no less of a right to call yourself a cinephile than I do.
I would, however, without any sense of superiority (that would make me truly pretentious) recommend that you at least try an artsy film or two. You may be confused and bored a little at first, but when you start asking questions as to “what does that mean?” or “what ideas is this movie trying to give me?” rather than demanding answers, you will most likely have a fulfilling movie-going experience. Obviously, you won’t like every non-traditional film, but you may discover something beautiful Under the Skin (yes, that was a reference to the 2014 Jonathan Glazer movie). Plus it’ll add something to talk about at dinner parties.
Now back to Ruined Heart! Another Love Story Between a Criminal and a Whore.
This film follows two unnamed characters, one being, of course, a criminal and the other a prostitute, as they fall in love in the slums of a Philippine city. The story is told through various sometimes lengthy scenes that are often in non-chronological order set to music composed by writer-director Khavn. In this way it feels very much like a ballet without ballet-dancing.
Like always, the positives first. First of all, this is a genius idea. We’ve all seen this story played out again and again and thus this spin on the tragic romance is actually surprisingly easy to follow once some lateral logic is applied. This is unlike any movie I have ever seen. It seems to take inspiration from various sources. Old silent movies, musicals, opera, ballet, gangster films, Shakespeare, recent gritty slum films, this film in a way has it all.
Secondly, the music and direction of Philippine filmmaking star Khavn De La Cruz is superb. By the end of the film, the world he managed to bring to life both with fantasy and realism got immensely invested in these characters through knowing everything and nothing about them. Fantastic realism is something I greatly admire in motion pictures.
As I said at the beginning of this review, I said that these films are difficult to criticise. That’s because anything I don’t like or don’t get can be explained as “open to interpretation”. If I were to complain about anything in this movie for being too slow or confusing, a voice in my head asks me why I don’t like it when I love David Lynch’s Eraserhead which is confusing as all hell and is often very slow-paced.
My response to this is that Eraserhead is a movie which is is more consistent in its style than Ruined Heart. While most scenes in the latter take a dive into the unexplained with a point to make, I feel that some are artsy for the sake of being artsy and pad out the runtime too much. Apparently this was adapted from a short film and I would quite like to see that, because this is on the verge of a very streamlined but strange little story, if not for some moments that give the impression it is biting off more than it can chew.
So would I recommend it? Yes and no. It was good for me to finally see a movie from the Phillipines and I hope that film industry continues to grow and for Khavn De La Cruz to move onto greater projects. However, I can’t help but feel that this film does go a bit too long and a bit too confusing for my taste in the art-house. And that is saying something.
This definitely isn’t the first movie you should see in your journey into the world of weird cinema, but it can at least be on your radar.
Recommended Scenario: If you wanted to see what it would be like for David Lynch to direct a full-length musical.
If what I have written tells you that you would like this film, you can book tickets to see it at your local Cineworld here.