As the world entered into a lockdown, I was forced to stay back at a one-room apartment I rent as I missed the last ride back home. I had a laptop, a stable Internet connection, and tonnes of streaming libraries to go through. Little did I know that Netflix would introduce me to this Spanish thriller, which I would connect to so much. Netflix’s El Hoyo, widely known as The Platform, was among the top ten streams at the time, and it has every reason to be in such lists, probably forever.
We’ve all previously watched films set in a dystopian future where humans are left resource-less and try to find a new life. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) had a similar plot, and even Interstellar (2014) dealt with a similar issue. But The Platform takes it to a whole other level.
The film delves deep into the impacts on human psychology caused by the lack of resources. It dives into the mental state of viewers through the protagonist. It forces them to think about their lifestyle, preferences, and sense of solidarity. What starts as a film about survival becomes a story of pain, anguish, pity, and the eventual ascension of our protagonist into a new man with a new sense of morality.
El Hoyo translates to “The Hole”, and that’s where the film is set. In a dystopian future, The Administration (an insignia to the government) has created a Vertical Self-Management Centre (VSC). This VSC is a vertical prison with hundreds of cells constructed one over the other with a hole in between. The Hole is a space where a floating “platform” stops once a day with food on it, feeding two inmates per level, which are switched every 30 days between the countless floors. While the prisoners in the upper can eat what they want, the lower levels suffer from starvation. Goreng (played by Iván Massagué) is an inmate who has voluntarily entered VSC in exchange for an accredited diploma he shall receive upon his release. As the levels change every month, it’s upon Goreng to understand VSC’s darkest truths, the need for survival, and fight for his diminishing solidarity.
The Concept of “The Platform”
If you closely understand this film’s plot, it directly reflects our unequal society, which divides people by their class, wealth, and privilege. In “The Hole”, the ones blessed with the privilege of spending a month on Level 1 and the other early numbers get to have the best food possible, including cakes and desserts. The film explores how those people exploit the food leaving nothing for those on the lower levels, who are forced to take stern steps to ensure continued endurance to survive.
This is a sad calling to the way our unjust society works. We are aware of how wealth and resources are distributed unequally across the globe. Even the newest generations have witnessed humanitarian crises and are also living in one of them. The scenes of food waste and exploitation horrify, especially when you see the lengths the inmates at lower levels go to protect themselves.
Imagine watching the film at a time when the world was at its worst in the midst of a global pandemic, where we witnessed how the lower economic and social sections suffered the most. The Platform will give you an insight into how a failed administration and ignorance of the élite, uplifted sections can create a divide, prejudice, hatred, and discrimination in a society capable of doing good.
The Platform is entirely shot from the perspective of Goreng. Goreng seems an intelligent person, but is not smart enough to understand the harsh nature of humanity. Plus, he is definitely not aware of where he has been put just for an accredited diploma. He wakes up at Level 48 on the first day, with his cellmate Trimagasi (played by Zorion Eguileor). As all cellmates are allowed to take one piece of their property with them into the Hole, Goreng chose the book Don Quixote. It’s a story about a noble who turns into a knight-errant and goes on a mission to revive the concepts and traditions of chivalry in his nation.
Throughout the film, Goreng, who is powered by aesthetic, realistic, and zealous performance by Massagué, is shown to forcefully embrace the mental and psychological changes thrown upon him by the harsh conditions of The Hole. It’s Goreng’s eyes through which we witness the nightmares the VSC burdens the inmates with. Goreng is shown to change psychologically at every level, losing his grip over sanity and reality. The amalgamation of Goreng’s changing personalities culminates in the film’s climactic scene, which will make you recall the entire film to make a satisfying conclusion.
As for the Administration responsible for the VSC, we get no clear hint about who they are. What we see is a glimpse of chefs responsible for cooking all the great food that goes down the Hole on the platform. These representatives of the Administration seems unconcerned with VSC inmates’ miseries, reflecting the autocratic governance across the world, where democracy only serves the wealthy and élite. Another indication of the unjust society we live in.
Everyone has a Role to Play
Massagué is joined by four characters, namely Trigmasi, Imoguiri (played by Antonia San Juan), Baharat (played by Emilio Buale Coka), and Miharu (played by Alexandra Masangkay).
While three of them are Goreng’s changing cellmates, Miharu is a woman who rides down on the platform every month, apparently searching for her child.
These performances add up to the brutally efficient and impactful plot of the film. The three characters are obviously understood from Goreng’s point of view. Still, the audience may also figure out the individual significance of these roles if we pay attention to the details. They amplify the social message probably discussed in the film by delving into different reasons and values, all affected by the Hole’s conditions.
While the actors’ performances, especially that of Eguileor, add up to the film’s narrative’s strong voice, their names add up to the films’ thematic significance, which you shall figure out once you watch it.
The film’s societal significance has been cleverly written, depicted, and set on-screen to help the audience recognize the intensity of the problem from the gravest of scenarios while also offering them the courage to “be the change” in the flaw. The dialogues and the scenes are shot and written with utter honesty to the plot. It takes some courage to see the graphic horrors of starvation, despair, desperation and loss of hope in the lower levels of the VSC.
What begins with an idea or a mere vision of a dystopian world turns into a gasping visual experience, which rises to be a message of most significant importance, especially in such dire times.
The film’s themes are pretty much aligned with those of Parasite and Knives Out; it examines them with a different approach and focusses on a significant concern embedded in that class stratification: resource allocation and distribution.
Besides that, the film also dives into the themes of survival, repentance, desire and protest, which all influence Goreng and ultimately turn our protagonist into a fighter or a liberator, which somewhat aligns him with the lead character of his book, Don Quixote.
The film says less in dialogue and more in signs, symbols, and visuals. It’s a unique kind of filmmaking that has helped the film gain much acclaim among the international audience, a very rare feat for foreign language films. The Platform will prompt you to take a stand and will put you into the misery of those not privileged as you are. It has a certain vitality, which is amplified given I watched it when such things are brought to the whole world’s attention. The energy of this film has intensified now, and it deserves a watch.
(As for a final suggestion, watch it in Spanish (the original language) with subtitles to get in the zone. Some dialogues hold specific symbolism, which would be diminished in a dubbed version.)
Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.