There isn’t a frame in Ploy that doesn’t feel like an intrusion. Characters are often alone and defensively silent in the frame.
The camera rarely captures its subject in full. We see arms and legs, crumpled coats on disturbed sheets, but the faces and bodies often stay out of frame. Rather than panning or zooming to capture more of the scene, the camera stays static, seldomly moving from the partial compositions. The effect makes a member of the audience feel like their spying into the world of Wit and Dang through peepholes. Wit owns a restaurant in America, and it must be of high repute, since he wrested his wife Dang not just from her existing marriage but also from her career as a film star. They’ve lived together seven full years in America, apart from their culture and pasts.
Wit seems to enjoy intruding, however. Immediately on arriving at the hotel he leaves his wife to get “smokes” planting himself in the bar. He nettles the bartender who deflects all attempts at conversation.
His cigarette does attract the attention of a young girl, Ploy. She’s wild haired, but otherwise restrained, more coy than flirtatious and solemn in a way that belies her age. When Wit admits he isn’t familiar with her favorite musician, Ploy puts one earbud in his ear and the other in her’s...
Wit invites the young Ploy up to his hotel room “to freshen up” and “get a nap”. It certainly registers as a proposition to Ploy who considers the matter gravely before acquiescing. When they arrive at the room and are greeted by Dang, Wit’s wife who accepts her husband’s guest with an air of icy defensiveness. She’ll find the means to repay this slight in due time.
Dang’s anger; Wit’s fears of losing Dang not just in marriage; Ploy’s lust unfulfilled are given life in overlapping vignettes. These are so vivid as to overwhelm the established reality of the whole picture. As the parallel fantasies and nightmares coalesce, we don’t just lose track of reality, which of the characters are the dreamers and which are the dreams gets muddied. There are still high stakes in the realm of fantasy. It’s here that Dang and Wit (and perhaps Ploy’s) feelings for each other are manifested and driven to their extremes.
Its’ a rare feat for a film to abandon cohesion yet still maintain its tension. Its rarer still to witness a filmmaker pull this off through mundane editing and consistent design rather than the overindulgence that characterizes so much of the ‘surrealist’ or ‘mindfuck’ cinema. Director Pen-Ek Ratanaruang makes it all look easy. Ploy is a feature-length extension of the centerpiece of Peter Weir's exceptional Picnic at Hanging Rock.
The finale follows a sequence with no ties to any reality outside of cinema, doesn’t register as real. It certainly contradicts many of the plotlines shown beforehand.