As dystopian drama goes, Spanish director Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia’s The Platform is a blunt but effective metaphor for the greedy capitalism of western society. Don’t worry though, it isn’t eye-rollingly preachy. Just very gory and gripping.
Set in a prison with a single two person cell per floor, and over two hundred floors, a platform containing food descends every day, through a hole in the centre of every cell, making brief stops. Prisoners are able to eat for those few minutes, but aren’t able to stash food for later or their cell heats up or freezes. With prisoners on cell rotation every month, seemingly at random, sometimes they end up near the top, where the food is meticulously prepared and laid out as haute cuisine. Other times they are nearer the bottom, in which case the food is nearly always gone. They could end up starving for a month, which is survivable, but if they end up on lower floors two months running… it’s a choice between death or much nastier methods of survival.
It isn’t ever made clear why some inmates are criminals and others volunteers (something about getting social credits for staying a certain amount of time), but protagonist Goreng (Ivan Massague) soon learns the dog eat dog ways of incarceration in “The Hole”. The metaphor is incredibly relevant, and very obvious. If those higher up rationed the food, there would be enough for all. Instead they gorge themselves with no thought for those below. Those in the middle get table leavings, but still eat. By the time it gets to the lower floors there is nothing. Broiling resentments from all inmates overflow once floors are rotated, with those waking up near the top gorging themselves to make up for being starved lower down, with no consideration to those beneath, and round and round it goes. If you’re looking for a film to reignite your faith in humanity, this certainly isn’t it.
The ending falls a little flat, and these kinds of themes have been covered before in other dystopian microcosm dramas (most recently High Rise and Snowpiercer leap to mind). We’re hardly talking Parasite levels of social commentary here, but at least the film is saying something, if not necessarily anything particularly profound, about the appalling cycles the human race gets trapped inside. Although bleak and despairing, The Platform is compelling stuff, very well acted, scripted, and directed. But a very strong stomach is required.
UK Certificate: 18
US Certificate: R
Content warnings: Graphic bloody violence, strong language, nudity, sexual content.