By Dustin Rowles | Film | April 3, 2020 |
By Dustin Rowles | Film | April 3, 2020 |
The Spanish-language dystopian film The Platform was released to Netflix’s streaming network last week, and over the weekend it was the most popular movie on the service for apparently the same reasons that people seek out horror movies during times of societal tumult. The Platform, from director Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia, is something akin to a cross between the Canadian cult film The Cube and a vertical version of Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer, an indictment of capitalism with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer to the kneecap.
The blunt allegory, however, is part of The Platform’s appeal. It’s a deliciously simple premise: It takes place in a building with 333 concrete floors, two people per floor (so, uh, 666 people. I told you it wasn’t subtle). On the very top of the building, a deliciously magnificent feast is prepared by a skilled chef and a kitchen full of cooks and placed on a large table. The table is then lowered down to each of the 333 floors, one-by-one, spending two minutes on each floor. The pairs on the upper floors basically have two choices: Eat as much as possible from the feast, or eat only what they need, leaving enough for those on the lower floors.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out how it works out. Those on the upper floors get all the food they can eat, while those on the lower floors are forced to resort to violence and cannibalism to survive. Each month, however, the pairs wake up on a new, randomly assigned floor. A pair could end up on Floor 120 one month, the 5th floor the next month, and floor 300 on the month after that. If someone dies or is killed, they are replaced by a new person the following month. If someone tries to hoard food, their floor will turn to either an oven or a freezer until they rid themselves of their stores.
There are several characters in The Platform who represent the different kinds of people in a capitalistic society. Trimagasi (Zorion Eguileor) represents the older generation, those who have resigned to the system. He nonchalantly accepts his fate and sees murder and cannibalism outside of the moral spectrum; they are just a necessary means of survival. Trimagasi is a rule follower.
Imoguiri (Antonia San Juan) is basically a former bureaucrat, a well-meaning cog in the system who is ultimately gobbled up by it. Baharat (Emilio Buale) is desperate to climb up the ladder and into the one percent, so-to-speak, but is thwarted by a system that does not allow for upward mobility. Miharu (Alexandra Masangkay) is capitalism’s chaos agent, a homeless murderer who is less a part of capitalism than a consequence of it. She can essentially traverse all the floors unseen because in a capitalistic society, we don’t see homeless people.
Then there’s our lead character, Goreng (Ivan Massagué). He represents the current generation, someone trying to fight against our capitalistic society. He’s basically a Bernie Bro (minus all the negative attributes one associates with a Bernie Bro). By the end of the film, Goreng has survived for five months on various floors, and he’s finally made it to the fifth floor. He’s determined to use his station to ensure that everyone gets an equal share of the feast. Begging, cajoling, and even the threat of defecating on the food doesn’t convince those on the upper floors to share with those on the lower floors, so Goreng along with Baharat resort to defending the food with violence. They stand on the table, and they beat off those on the upper floors who attempt to partake of the feast. After 300 floors, obviously, the violence takes a toll.
By the time Goreng reaches the bottom floor, all he wants to be able to do is save one perfect dessert, which he will send untouched back to the top floor as a message to the chef. He is convinced of the power of this single message. Unfortunately, by the time he reaches the bottom floor, that pannacotta is the only food he has left, and on the bottom floor, there is a hungry child who hasn’t eaten in who knows how long.
Goreng gives up the pannacotta.
However, in lieu of sending the dessert — which represents money/wealth — back up as a message to the chef, he puts the kid on the table and sends him back up. Now, the child is the message. He represents the future generation, and Goren is so convinced that those at the top of the ladder will listen to a message from the next generation that he sacrifices his life to send that message. Goreng dies a martyr for socialism. Goreng died thinking he made a difference.
Spoiler alert: Goreng did not make a difference, and in the grand scheme, sending a child back to the administration is not going to have the transformative power Goreng believes it might have. The kid will be ignored. Capitalism does not respond to sentiment, especially if that sentiment has no bearing on their lives. If Goreng really wanted the administration to listen, he’d have sent the kid back up to the top with a virus that made them ill-equipped to feed even their own selves.