The Platform, directed by Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia, with the screenplay by David Desola and Pedro Rivero, is a Spanish film about the class system and the power struggles that come along with it. Set in a prison referred to as the Hole and a “Vertical Self-Management Center”, two prisoners occupy each floor of the structure, the only addition a moving platform of food that descends the structure once a day. Thus food becomes the focal point here. Goreng, played by Ivan Massagué, is new to the hole and learns how the system functions, showing us this crazy claustrophobic space through a newcomer’s perspective. It’s immediately shown as unfair, as those on the higher levels have access to more food than those below.
Due to the restrictive space, the true nature of the characters is quicker to gauge, as the film shows how the characters respond to their predicament. Some are optimistic, like Baharat (played by Emilio Buale) who try to climb to higher levels, whilst others are resigned to their fate and feel that trying to alter it is futile; it’s better to give in to the oppressive structures. Trimagasi (Zorion Eguileor) is Goreng’s cellmate, a character that obeys and upholds the hierarchy, with no intention of changing things. He represents those that don’t use their voice to initiate change, too beaten down by the system and pessimistic as to any use their individual voice can have. The critique of capitalist society is all too apparent here. No-one cares about those below. You have to be selfish in order to survive this dystopian setting. But the film plays with the ways acts of resistance can be perpetrated in this space, and questions how effective they can be. I found the story involving Mihrau (played by Alexandra Masangkay) to be harrowing and found that the independent objectives of the characters added more to the piece. Ironically Baharat hopes to ascend, whilst Miharu’s goal is to descend.
There is clear symbolism at play in the film and the painful irony is all too apparent. There’s enough food for all, but everyone overeats on the top levels, meaning that those on the lower levels get scraps, if anything at all. But there’s a pragmatism here, as the prisoners are reassigned to a new level each month, so it’s wise to eat as much as they can when they can. Actor Ivan Massagué is physically depleted by the end of the film in line with his character’s starvation. People go to extreme lengths to meet this fundamental need, including cannibalism. The hole acts as a metaphorical hell; the punishment feels never-ending and so severe.
Added to this, not much context is given as to how people end up in this space. Making the suffering more sadistic. Orwellian is the faceless cohort that controls the platform, drugging and moving the prisoners month to month and enforcing the rules. The rooms have a hole in the center for the food platform, which affirms an unease and ever-present reminder of the fatal nature of the prison. Vertigo and the fear of dropping, for me at least, were constant fears. The space creates the horror.
The Platform shows the base, depraved state of humans, while juggling with ever-relevant topical issues on socialism and how wealth is distributed. The stripped back interior contrasts with the overindulgence of the food. Fancy dishes come down on adorned crockery. An exquisite and completely unnecessary display of wealth, the dishes are a collection of the prisoners favourite dishes, but this extravagance is meaningless within this space. There’s a disconnect between what the people need and how these needs are being met in such an absurd, surreal way. The food becomes a necessity, an obstacle, and a symbol of status; even a panna cotta takes on a new meaning. In relation to food, there’s the bodily, the greed, the decline and decay, and the bestiality of it. Much of the gore of the film comes from how the concepts of food and the body become interchangeable.