From Us to Knives Out and the Academy Award-winning Parasite, class structure and identity was at the center of many genre and dramatic film discourse in 2019. The Platform, a Spanish film directed by Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia and written by David Desola and Pedro Rivero, added to this conversation with its showings at TIFF 2019 and Fantastic Fest 2019. Now, streaming exclusively on Netflix, The Platform has come to general audiences at a time where the responses to the Covid-19 pandemic in the US has highlighted inequities in access for those at the top of the economic chain and those at the bottom.
Set in a vertical prison, The Platform focuses on Goreng (Ivan Massagué), a new prisoner. The tower consists of hundreds of levels, each of which houses two prisoners with a hole in the center which allows people to look above them and below. But this hole in floor is filled as a platform gradually descends the levels of the tower once a day, offering a feast for the top floors while the bottom levels are left with scraps, and the ones even farther left to starve. The system itself is ostensibly a fair one, in theory, if each inmate takes only their fair share of food, there would be enough food to travel to the bottom and keep every prisoner from starving. But like with all things, in practice, the platform is deeply inequitable.
Those at the top levels have the ability to take much more food and leave less for those below them and with each prisoner changing position every month, once those at the bottom move up they refuse to go hungry again, while the ones who fall refuse to go without food, often eating their cellmates. The Platform presents the communalist ideal versus individualistic self-preservation in its simplest form, but with Goreng as our anchor in the world, we get to know the complications not only with how people always put themselves first, but how sending a message and breaking the system is often in vain.
One of the most interesting things about The Platform is that the prisoners range from the violent, to the accidental, and to people like Goreng, those who entered the prison voluntarily. When he awakes in a concrete cell marked with the number 48 with his copy of Don Quixote, he’s greeted by his Trimagasi (Zorion Eguileor), who explains the rules of the prison and the platform. Trimagasi an old man, is a believer in the system, having survived on one of the lowest levels multiple times. While Goreng tries to talk with the prisoners on other floors, Trimagasi explains, that those below are not worth discussion because they’re below and those above will not listen to them because they are above.
Throughout the film, Goreng is broken by the system, gives into it, and ultimately tries to break it. The Platform is stunning in its overt presentation of social class and how people act when given perceived status. With a platform descending in regular intervals, giving each prisoner the same amount of time, the only difference is the numbering of the levels, a privilege that each of those on the higher level takes advantage of. As Goreng meets new cellmates and learns from them, his path becomes clear, to send a message to the operators of the prison.
The Platform is best watched with less information. The way that the film showcases human desperation and selfishness on one hand and selflessness on the other is exquisite, violent, and unsettling in its reality. That said, I don’t want to go too much into detail as the small turns in the story amount to a narrative that offers no expectations in trajectory and yet still subverts what you bring into it if you know the premise.
This film is perfect. There were moments in The Platform where my heart dropped and I wanted to sink into the floor, but there were others where I found myself filled with hope. Much like reading the news right now, my fear escalated, my hope revved up, and I was left in a somber pit when it was all over. Beyond its setting and themes, the effects, acting, and action are all expertly executed.
Overall, The Platform feels like a sledgehammer to the chest. It’s bleak yet hopeful ending offers no real solution to classism and privilege and it’s timeliness echoes as it fades to the credits. While explorations of class and capitalism are always relevant, now more than ever do the inequalities showcased in the film strike every cord as NBA players and celebrities receive Covid-19 testing and those struggling to survive without millions of dollars are left self-quarantined, not even able to obtain a test unless they check ever stringent box. If only those at the top only took what was needed, would we be in a different place?
The Platform is streaming exclusively on Netflix.
The Platform is a like a sledgehammer to the chest. It’s bleak yet hopeful ending offers no real solution to classism and privilege and it’s timeliness echoes as it fades to the credits. While explorations of class and capitalism are always relevant, now more than ever do the inequalities showcased in the film strike every cord
Kate is co-founder, EIC, and CCO of BWT. She’s also a Certified Rotten Tomatoes Critic, host, and creator of our flagship podcast, But Why Tho? and Did You Have To?. She also manages all PR relationships for comics, manga, film, TV, and anime. She has an MA in Cultural Anthropology and Religious Studies focusing on how pop culture impacts society.