“Hunger unleashes the madman in us”
Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia’s debut sci-fi horror film The Platform (2019) was released on Netflix a few days before the quarantine started. Now, if this has been good or bad timing depends on one’s idea of what the future might hold for mankind. Or is the future now?
Goreng (Iván Massagué) wakes up in cell 48, his Don Quixote book by his side. His cryptic roommate, Trimagasi (Zorion Eguileor) gradually explains the workings of the four-walled inferno, pierced by a descending platform that delivers food to the inmates. However, the prepared banquet never makes it to the lower floors, as the upper ones greedily overeat and spoil what’s left. People cannot hoard food, each one is entitled to one personal item, and every month they are randomly reassigned to a new floor.
The film draws elements from Denis Villeneuve’s short film Next Floor (2008) and Vincenzo Natali’s Cube (1997). The production design is splendidly claustrophobic, while the performances and camera-takes keep your attention undivided – floor upon floor.
It’s a stark allegory about vertical capitalism and the social class system. The film builds on the dehumanising lack of empathy between those on the top of the literal food chain, and those doomed to survive below. One of Goreng’s roommates, Imoguiri (Antonia San Juan), fruitlessly tries to reason with others about rationing the food – before Goreng decides to act.
However, the film’s clean storytelling is subdued by the blunt symbolism of the floors, the automatic running of the platform, and the opportunistic survival mode. The allegorical issues are thrown out without any answers. Instead, gory scenes are used as a filler. Meanwhile, the plot falls into the absurd and leaves even more questions unanswered in its rushed ending. Was this all perhaps a quixotic dream in the end?