When Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia’s gorgeous debut characteristic The Platform premiered at TIFF, it was extensively hailed as an exhilarating, accessible science-fiction/horror metaphor for wealth inequality around the globe. Six months later, because the film debuts on Netflix, it seems like a unique story totally.
The supposed message, in regards to the imbalance of a system the place a small group of individuals have unfettered entry to wealth and energy, and the flexibility to casually deny even primary survival instruments to individuals beneath them, nonetheless comes throughout loud and clear. But within the coronavirus period, the place an growing variety of residents are being requested or ordered to barricade themselves of their properties to flatten the curve of a pandemic, The Platform’s claustrophobia and well-justified paranoia could appear simply as urgently private as its precise supposed social messages.
Ivan Massagué stars as Goreng, a scrawny, scholarly sort who opens the movie by waking up in a big, featureless concrete cell labeled “48.” The solely options: two beds, a minimal sink/bathroom setup, and an oblong gap within the flooring that connects the area to similar cells above and beneath, so far as Goreng can see. His cellmate, a dryly superior older man named Trimagasi (Zorion Eguileor), explains the principles of The Hole, the place they’re trapped. Once per day, a floating platform coated with an elaborate feast descends from the highest flooring, pausing for just a few moments on every degree so the inmates can eat. The catch is that the meals isn’t replenished because it descends. Goreng and Trimagasi, on degree 48, are selecting from picked-over leftovers which have been ravaged by 47 pairs of prisoners above them. After they get their transient probability on the meals, the platform will descend and current their leftovers to cell 49, beneath.
There are a number of extra key guidelines to The Hole, a few of them much more sadistic and unusual than this preliminary setup. But discovering them as they turn out to be relevant is lots of the early marvel of The Platform. Each new reveal has a grim, implacable logic — in fact there are methods the individuals behind The Hole forestall individuals from hoarding meals of their cells, and naturally Goreng and Trimagasi have been imprisoned for various causes that talk to The Hole’s final function — however screenwriters David Desola and Pedro Rivero have a depraved humorousness, and a way of timing to match. The facility’s brutalist cells are bleak and easy, with out lots of apparent narrative potentialities, however the writers be sure there’s at all times a brand new aspect of the situation rising to shock and intrigue the viewers. Just as quickly as one scenario settles in, they shift to one thing subtly completely different.
Initially, the movie unfolds like a two-man play, someplace between the aimless comedic circles of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, and the helpless hell-is-other-people hostility of Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit. Goreng and Trimagasi really feel one another out, first in an preliminary rush of exposition, and later in a collection of calculated reveals that goose up the story’s stakes. One notably key revelation: each month, everybody within the facility is gassed and moved to a brand new degree, seemingly at random. So because the cellmates are weighing the ethics of what to eat from the day by day bounty, and what to depart for the individuals beneath them, they’re additionally going through the fact that inside 30 days, they could be first to the feast as a substitute — or final, and going through a day by day platform coated with empty platters and licked-clean bowls.
That final element is what pushes The Platform from the realm of heady high-concept fantasy into an apparent and significant moral thought experiment. Goreng realizes early on that the platform virtually definitely begins out on degree 0 with sufficient meals for everybody within the facility, however that the individuals above selfishly cram in every thing they will eat, leaving a few of the individuals beneath them to starve. And as Trimagasi factors out, that isn’t simply short-sighted gluttony, both: somebody blessed with a month on degree 2 may wish to construct up sufficient additional weight that they will survive a month on degree 150. But Trimagasi additionally has a chilly disdain for anybody caught on the decrease ranges: in his eyes, the individuals above him are inherently superior to him, and the individuals beneath are inferior. In his eyes, there’s no level in attempting to shift the system, or to tailor his personal actions to profit and even acknowledge anybody else.
It’s potential to understand The Platform sheerly on a literal degree, as an excruciatingly well-made slow-burn horror story about being trapped with terrible individuals below grim situations. Much as with Bong Joon-Ho’s Snowpiercer, the allegory is unmissable, with out throttling the motion. But in a shelter-in-place period, the place individuals in an growing variety of nations are holed up of their properties with their family members, the situation could really feel too actual, and the science-fiction components don’t shift that calculus. Thanks to terse, intense performances and taut conditions, The Platform ramps up the sense that the characters lack any choices besides to activate one another, since they don’t have any entry to the forces pinning them down.
The design of the jail provides to that sense of limitation. It’s a easy, unrelievedly barren set, so squalidly lit that the main points fuzz collectively. But Gaztelu-Urrutia finds loads of methods to maneuver in shut on his forged for a way of urgency, or pull out for a way of scale, guaranteeing that the cinematography is rarely uninteresting, and the area by no means stops being alien and oppressive. In spite of the simplicity of the area and the consequences, The Platform is visually putting and memorable. It seems to be so much like a extra realism-drenched model of Vincenzo Natali’s claustrophobia-inflected 1997 characteristic Cube, with an analogous sense that there are lots of grand, echoing mysteries to discover. At least, if the characters may ever make it previous the essential query of navigate and survive a hellish dystopia.
But the metaphor is far richer in The Platform. Trimagasi’s self-satisfied petulance, his sheer, dogged dedication to keep away from any kind of self-examination or change, is extra of a nightmare situation than the rest within the story. Eventually, the movie goes in a graphically gory route, however the bodily violence feels extra cathartic than scary after a lot time watching Trimagasi attempt to infect Goreng along with his smug apathy towards different individuals, whereas Goreng desperately tries to justify any sense of empathy in any respect. And when different individuals become involved within the debate about social duty, the movie opens up in mandatory methods, nevertheless it nonetheless weighs Goreng down with the sensation of being the one rational man in an irrational world. The message that he can’t management different individuals’s habits, besides in restricted methods and thru vicious means, isn’t notably uplifting. But that makes it all of the extra convincing and related as a thought experiment: there are not any straightforward solutions right here.
There’s an virtually Lovecraftian sense of horror to The Platform, in that the characters are caught in an unlimited, detached place they will’t totally perceive, and the solutions aren’t forthcoming. But there’s additionally very private horror as nicely, within the politics of Trimagasi’s self-serving certainty, his utter confidence that his selfishness is probably the most rational option to behave, regardless of who it hurts. While The Platform was made in Spain, it definitely feels simply as related to America’s present second, and to the continuing political conflict between a handful of billionaires attempting to consolidate energy, and everybody caught within the cells beneath them, clutching at no matter trickles down.
But the place there’s nothing a lot humorous about rising wealth inequity, The Platform’s saving grace is its mordant humorousness. Desola and Rivero (who make a cameo within the movie, see the feedback beneath) pack the script with little tension-skewering moments that inevitably come as a shock and a aid. For a grotesquely violent movie in regards to the towering oppression of capitalism, it’s shockingly entertaining and energetic. Mostly, although, it’s simply stunning. It’s a film designed for individuals who like their future-fiction considerate and related, and for individuals who benefit from the runaway-train feeling of getting no concept the place a given story may probably go subsequent. It’s a type of escapist, action-centered aid from the sensation of being trapped by a pandemic, nevertheless it’s completely steeped in that feeling, too.
The Platform is streaming on Netflix now.