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The Platform

Released 2020. Director: Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia

AN ALL-YOU-CAN-EAT BUFFET DELIVERED TO YOU EVERY SINGLE DAY. Sounds like a treat. The Platform is about a lot of food and very bad table manners. It’s about being trapped in a system with diminishing resources. And several other things which become obvious very quickly.

‘Obvious’ is the key word here. Not only is it an oft-repeated word used by one of the characters, it’s also the guiding principle in the storytelling. The Platform is very obvious about its message on many levels.

‘Levels’ is the other key word. The movie takes place inside a vertical prison of many levels with a large rectangular opening at the centre of the cells. A platform descends every day through this hole in the ceiling/floor with a spread of food, a feast that includes everyone’s favourite food. The two inmates on each level get to eat before the platform lowers itself to the next level, and the next, and the next... Two minutes every day.

On his first day, Goreng (Ivan Massagué) wakes up to find himself on level 48 with Trimagasi (Zorion Eguileor). As Goreng is a newbie, Trimagasi explains how the prison system works. Goreng is shocked at the way people simply stuff their faces with as much as they can eat, making a mess at the same time with no regard for those who eat afterwards.

The way they gorge themselves, as Goreng points out, there won’t be any food left for those on the lower levels. Obviously, says Trimagasi. That’s why he has a knife – to eat his cellmate when there’s no food left. Every month they are reassigned to a different level. Who knows where they might end up? It’s not so much how high the prison block goes, but rather how deep it gets counting from level one at the top. Looking straight down, Goreng thinks there could be at least 150 levels.

Along with the food, a woman appears one day on the platform. Straggly, dirty, unusually calm, she goes from level to level to search for her missing child, who may or may not exist.

The following month, Goreng wakes up on level 171, tied up. Sure enough, by the time the platform gets to this level only scraps are left. Lying defenceless, Goreng becomes Trimagasi’s dinner, his flesh cut up one small slice at a time before the woman arrives and plunges a knife in Trimagasi. Now Goreng has an ethical dilemma. Would he eat Trimagasi, or would he choose to starve to death?

The metaphors in the movie are, that word again – obvious. Those on the upper echelons of society have first dips at wealth and they take more than their fair share, mess up the system with no concern for those less fortunate. The lower in society you are, the less you get. You can easily read a lot into this. Social stratification, income inequality, environmental degradation, exploitation of the weak, and so on. Like Gandhi said about the world having enough for everyone’s need, but not for everyone’s greed.

The story takes place in the future, presumably, and does not shed light on the world outside this vertical purgatory. Boxed in by harsh concrete with no sunlight or a view, the characters exist in a wild-west frontier where you make your own law, a horror sci-fi of sorts, though it’s not quite bona fide either way.

The last few moments of the movie ramp up the action with Goreng and a new cellmate attempting to stand up against the system. In trying to reach those in charge, Goreng ends up on the lowest level: 333, which means there are 666 prisoners in total. Another obvious reference and this one invokes religious symbolism.

At times The Platform is reminiscent of Bong Joon-Ho’s Snowpiercer (2013), where the surviving population of the world is separated by class on train carriages. The Platform is a vertical version of a parallel idea. In its overloading of metaphors, some of them unapologetically literal, the movie’s basic blueprint itself is uncannily similar to a short film made by Denis Villeneuve, the director of Blade Runner 2049, Prisoners, Sicario and Arrival. After you’ve seen The Platform, I encourage you to check out Next Floor (2008) on YouTube and compare the two for yourself.

The message in The Platform is clear to read at any time. Viewed against these anxious times of a global pandemic, they become even more troubling. How we live and cope with prolong uncertainty will shape our collective future. To be selfish, profiteering and unconcerned for the wellbeing of others, or to work together and make sure we all get through our lot, one meal at a time.

Click image above to view trailer. New window will open.


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