Debut director Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia’s The Platform (El Hoyo) makes no apology for its anti-capitalist stance, stark visuals and social metaphors, which in today’s coronavirus era make for very sober and self-reflective viewing. It highlights people’s greed and selfishness in desperate and restrictive circumstances and ironically revolves around food. Indeed it is highly topical, with food stockpiling from stores set against messages on social media about “being kind” and thoughtful.
Much like a cross between Peter Greenaway’s The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover with its lavish cooking scenes at the start that have a whiff of malaise about them with their ominous carcasses on display, the decadent and destructive nature of Ben Wheatley’s High-Rise, and the slow-burn dawning of eternal entrapment within four walls like Lenny Abrahamson’s Room and Vincenzo Natali’s Cube, The Platform is instantly designed to unsettle, before the characters have fathomed their situation.
It is very much like a survival puzzle that lead character Goreng, feverishly played by Spanish actor Ivan Massagué takes the viewer on, as we find him in a sparse cell with one other prisoner that changes each time Goreng wakes up after spending a month on a cell floor. In the middle of each floor is a rectangular-shaped hole that a floating platform of food passes through from above. Those on Floor 1 get the spoils of a single sumptuous feast prepared for them by the faceless administration’s kitchen. Those below get what is left as the platform passes through subsequent floors, potentially infinite. Goreng’s reason for being there is not abundantly clear at the start – or perhaps, he has been dealt the punishment before committing the crime, much like futuristic crime prevention measures explored in Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report.
Food grabbing aside, writer David Desola’s story asks how civilized, civilized society is when faced with a dilemma: The film takes one presumably educated character who has social etiquette and morals to begin with and throws him into a near-future dystopia to see how quickly things unravel. The parallels are rendered more terrifying with present day’s climate. Gaztelu-Urrutia smoothly escalates the tension beautifully, with only the macabre rearing its ugly head at various critical crunchpoints. When it does, it is a grizzly sight.
The film’s primary and secondary-coloured theatrical palette helps simplify and focus on words and emotions, indicating the mood of the moment like the lights in the cell. Jon D. Domínguez’s cinematography dominates in many situations, long before the characters have responded to events they are faced with. Considering its abhorrent content at times, it is also truly mesmerizing to watch.
The Platform has its narrative flaws when trying to literally deliver “the message” at the end, which short of being slightly patchy in execution, seem to fade into the inconsequential as bigger questions are poised than answered. Even with such a cerebral premise, The Platform is a cleaner, more effortless watch than High-Rise, making it bound to resonate with a much wider Netflix audience than it might otherwise enjoy in non-pandemic times. It is one that current nightmares are made of; you have been warned.
The Platform is streaming on Netflix now.