Over the past few years I’ve been getting more and more into foreign films with the likes of “Raw”, “Roma” and “Parasite” all helping inspire me to broaden my horizons beyond my native tongue since I began this blog. With movie theaters closed and most big budget releases put on hold for the time being streaming services are getting more attention and it just so happens Netflix released a new Spanish language film this past week that, quite honestly is pretty fitting for today’s unsure times. “The Platform” is the directorial debut of Galder Gaztelu-Urruria and follows a man who willingly decides to spend six months inside a tower prison that contains hundreds of floor levels with two prisoners each and a single platform that descends daily to provide food floor by floor. However, what should be an even system if people only took what they needed turns out to be corrupted as those on higher floors tend to take more than they need leaving little to nothing for those on the bottom. Debuting at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2019 and released to the masses on Netflix this year, “The Platform” feels like a pretty timely exploration of the errors in the capitalist system, but how well does it present this message? Let’s find out. This is my review of “The Platform”.
“The Platform” is…interesting to say the least and in mostly good ways. Evoking a similar atmosphere and at times even a similar presentation to past horror films based on social structure like “Cube” and “Circle”, “The Platform” feels like it has a more direct purpose. The idea here is that the prison is meant to be a physical representation of the capitalist system and the greed often associated with that system. Every month the inmates are changed to different cells, sometimes higher than before and other times lower so after several rotations they earn an understanding of the risks and rewards of their random placement thus being more greedy and “privileged” when up top and less forgiving and considerate when lower down with less to pick from. In theory, and even the film presents this, the idea should be that those on the lower end understand the struggle of being lower so when they get the chance to be up top they are more willing to help their fellow men but instead the social structure in the film reflects what is unmistakably the mentality of society in reality where people take advantage of their status for fear of never having enough. Anyone who attempts to share or inspire equality is labeled a communist or told to mind their business.
While most times subtlety is required to make a movie great, in this case it’s the ballsiness of the film that really struck me. “The Platform” never tries to hide the tragic reality it’s exposing and I really liked that about it. Both literally and figuratively, whether through bloodshed or character revelations it presents the viewer with the harsh truths of capitalism and a system based on consumerism and self-preservation considering the needs of others. At the same time it doesn’t preach that everyone needs to have the exact same amount of everything, but only what they themselves need in order to function. These themes are actually extremely relevant to the world we’ve coem to live in over the just the past few weeks. All you need to do is look around and you can see this movie’s reality coming to fruition. With the COVID-19 crisis at hand people are isolated and when they do go to stores they’re buying up things like there’s literally no tomorrow focusing on their own needs rather than sharing the wealth. “The Platform” was created long before COVID-19 was a thing and it’s extremely rare that a movie ends up being this timely upon its release due to a direct event occurring in the real world. It’s on the nose message might be a bit of a turnoff for some people but there’s no mistaking that there is some truth in the idea. While we get to see blood and experience the terror of isolation through the characters it’s the horror of its honesty and truth that really makes this movie such a great picture.
But the symbolism and theming aren’t always that cut and dry. “The Platform” contains many different elements from subtle interactions between characters to even minor background details that take a bit of research and pop culture knowledge to understand that make the film a bit more complex. For example, the main character Goreng, played by Iván Massagué, brought a copy of “Don Quixote” with him as his one luxury item which is about a man who defends equal rights. Goreng also attempts to coax his fellow inmates into sharing by threatening them at one point, showcasing how the key to getting people to appreciate each other might be to give them something to fear if they don’t further adding to the flaws of the system rather than finding a good solution. There are lots more details I won’t touch on to avoid spoilers but this is the kind of film that demands several rewatches to catch and understand everything it has to say. It all leads up to an intriguing ending with its own symbolic meaning that, from what I’ve read, seems to be the most divisive aspect of the film. For me though it was fascinating and left a lot to the imagination which helped add some ambiguity to the picture’s more direct core message.
What made this movie even more enjoyable for me was that I felt the characters had dimension. A lot of times these films will embrace stereotypes or established roles to fill its cast and forget to provide anything unique or memorable about their characters beyond their given story purpose. “The Platform” does so much more. It gives its characters time to get to know each other, to understand each other and to learn from each other within the confines of their cells with the setup of two-person rooms helping support this approach. Right from the get-go I was invested in seeing Goreng get to know and understand his cellmate Trimagasi, played by Zorion Eguileor, who has now caused me to never look at the word “obviously” the same way again. Every person Goreng gets paired with has a memorable identity that stresses the diversity of the people in the prison, and thus symbolizes the diversity of people who are victimized by the capitalist mentality. They’re very human and while on the surface we can objectively decide when they’re choices are bad or good we’re asked to look at things more subjectively and to question whether or not we would act the same way or if they are truly right or wrong given their predicaments. Goreng especially is a fascinating character to watch because he evolves so much over the course of the film and he CHOSE to be in the prison rather than being sentenced there. The performers are all so committed to their characters making for a great cast that sells every elements of a movie that could have easily otherwise been a bland anti-capitalist horror show.
In short, I loved this movie. Sure, it has an odd B-movie vibe to it and feels inspired by previous films, and yes it’s themes are very on the nose and direct but it also perfects the social dynamic theming that other films have tried to embrace for years. It’s a fun sci-fi concept wrapped in a thriller horror that mercilessly tackles the flaws of a capitalist society without ever feeling too self-important or pretentious. Even if things weren’t as uneasy as they are right now with the COVID-19 virus this film would have something important to reveal about how society works and now that COVID has hit and exposed the exact flaws of society this movie predicts it is, even accidentally, an example of relevant filmmaking and theming at its finest. Even beyond its main theme there’s so much to unravel in the tiny details and conversations between characters. It’s just so compelling and engaging I can’t wait to see it again. Hell, I might watch it several more times before this whole COVID thing is done with. Mixing humanity with honesty and horror action with high-concept thrills, “The Platform” is a fun and meaningful experience worth revisiting again and again.