Rarely does a film distil human society as expertly as The Platform. That said, Spanish director, Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia’s first feature-length film is a dystopian nightmare. Set in a vertical prison called The Hole, where a platform with enough food for everyone is lowered from top to bottom. The gluttony of those at the top has horrific implications for anyone unlucky enough to find themselves on the lower levels.
The plot follows Goreng (Ivan Massagué) who voluntarily admits himself to The Hole for six months with the promise of an accredited diploma upon release. However, it soon becomes apparent that Goreng may not escape the prison with his life.
Just like the modern corporation, The Hole is designed to be devoid of conscience. The Administration prefer more euphemistic nomenclature, it is a “Vertical Self-Management Centre.”
In its interrogation of ideologies, the film explores the depths of human depravity. The lengths to which desperate people will go to survive, the greed that blinds the privileged to the suffering of those below and the danger of socialists killing the people they intended to help in the name of the message.
The Platform visualises social atomisation with two prisoners per level. They are divided both physically and along class lines. Goreng’s first act cellmate Trimagasi (Zorion Eguileor) explains it directly. You don’t talk to the people below. Why? Because they’re below. And the people above won’t speak to you. Why? Because they’re above, obviously.
Goreng realises the inmates will never experience a sense of spontaneous solidarity. Change cannot happen by itself. He is derided as a communist and mockingly called messiah by those on top. Voluntarily giving up his privileged level, Goreng like Dante embarks on a journey into the hellish depths of humanity.
This film is sure to be uncomfortable viewing for those on the upper levels of our society. The horror doesn’t come just from the madness that grips the starving bottom. But from the reflection of our own reality. Of the seductive lies and rationalisations, we use to justify a society built on greed and individualism.
Throughout 2020 we have been bombarded with films about class and society. While delivering the same message as Bong Joon-Ho’s Parasite, The Platform sets aside subtle allusion in favour of blunt force trauma.
To expect closure would be to misunderstand the film. It won’t be nicely wrapped up with a bow on at the end; how could it be? You will likely leave with more questions than answers. But you will have a provocative metaphor for an eternal struggle and a powerful allegory for the world it has created.
The sad irony of this Netflix Original is that it suffers like every previous modern revolutionary message. It is assigned a monetary value and placed on the market for consumption. The possibility of its message changing the behaviour of the intended audience consigned to the realm of fantasy.
While pedants will undoubtedly find plot holes to pick in The Platform, its growing popularity speaks for itself. The gripping narrative and thought-provoking content make this one of the very best Netflix films to date. George Orwell’s message from 1984 gets a revamp for the modern world and a syringe of adrenaline in the heart.
Words by Tom Brady