Trigger warning. The context and resonance have changed and how. Spanish film The Platform debuted at Toronto International Film Festival in 2019 where it met with wide critical acclaim. The entire film serves as a metaphor for social stratification and inequality but presents that story with sharp images of violence and gore. After all, as humans, we deal with survival, isolation, claustrophobia and crippling anxiety very instinctually. Perhaps this is the best time (and maybe also the worst) to release it on Netflix when the entire world deals with all of that and a lot more.
The film opens with two men in prison. Goreng is a new entrant who gets his initial lessons for survival from Trimagasi, his older cell-mate. In this odd setting, there is a system. There is a large rectangular opening in the middle of the floor which opens up once a day. A platform bearing food descends from the top-most floor to level 47 (where Goreng is stationed with Trimagasi) and then onwards. Unfortunately, by the time the platform reaches them, they can only feast on some leftovers. What’s worse, at the end of every month, prisoners are reassigned cells. Considering how it is unclear as to how many floors exist in total, the possibility of being stuck quite low is high, and during that month, the human mind can make a prisoner do terrible things. The obvious critique is that if every floor rationed equally, everyone would be fed. The film serves as a rather timely reminder that only by coming together and advocating equitable division of resources can humanity survive.
At the core of things, The Platform has this very straight-forward thematic agenda, and the entire plot and the grim realities of its imagery are all centred around it. This is the kind of efficient storytelling expected from a horror film these days. Within the subgenre of splatter and torture horror, it is very easy to gravitate towards extreme gore, added usually for effect. However, the writing in The Platform is so well thought that the brutality of cannibalism or assault doesn’t seem out of place. It is simply an extension of the psyche of the captives, as expected from characters who are being put through the possible worst. As a surrogate to that, it takes someone with a really strong stomach to digest the visuals as well. Still, they seem to go by pretty quickly and the film doesn’t suffer from pacing issues.
The film is very neatly divided into segments, the first of which focuses on Goreng and Trimagasi developing an unlikely connection. This is the foundation for the dark and twisted worldview that the film’s tone will adopt from here on. So most of their interactions, while creepy, are also very humourous. Post a dramatic point, the situation starts becoming deeply unsettling. It is this trajectory that is completely embodied by Iván Massagué, who plays Goreng. From the moment the film begins, he is literally and figuratively trapped in an ethically difficult predicament. The discomfort in choosing his own livelihood and the terror of devastation that surrounds him is palpable, and his character’s transformation is what keeps you hooked.
So, the biggest strength of The Platform may also very well be its biggest downfall. At a time where half the world’s population is lapping up dystopian content as much as they’re hoarding supplies from grocery stores, not only is The Platform a serious downer, but also very in-your-face in taking home the point that humans are essentially a terrible species. While we can get by the not-at-all subtle usage of cannibalism, I’m not sure if this is really the time to be telling people that when push comes to shove, humans will choose their own survival than the greater good of mankind. The lesson that we must unify to save our resources, especially for future generations, takes a depressing turn, and that’s not the lesson we need right now.
Having said that, it’s still a very well crafted splatter horror film, and those are brutally missed anyway. On a very superficial level, it is an easy watch much like Bong Joon-Ho’s Snowpiercer, for instance. The grand metaphors that the writing throws at you are obvious but the feeling is real. After a point, you do not feel that this is a prison in a fantastical world, it could very well be our future. Even with the lack of subtlety, it is really the performances and the taut screenplay that drive the film home.
Music and Other Departments
The Platform has predominantly one setting - a prison cell which is replicated across floors. The design of this prison adds to the sense of a constrictive environment where the possibility of an inmate trying to escape or make a change is very little. In such a small space too, the minimal production design and excellent visual effects pop out. The cast and the camera move around a lot to mirror our claustrophobia and still give a sense of scale as if we are navigating our escape as well.
Did I enjoy it?
Yes, very much. It takes a bit of focus to get into the space and setting that the movie creates. But once you’re in, it’s hard to stop watching because you want to know how it ends.
Do I recommend it?
Yes. If you’re a fan of splatter horror like me and like your allegories to be evidently understood, then you will love this film. If you’re avoiding any dystopian content at this time, stay away.
Rating: 3.5/5 Stars