It’s been well over a month since I have been locked down in my house. Well, locked down not in the truest sense. I can still see the sun rise and set in its stipulated time every day, hear birds chirping, enjoy the fresh wind hitting my face, and eat home-cooked food. Imagine all this taken away from you and life in a vertical hole (named as the Vertical Self-Management Center), where the threads of humanity and morality are being shredded one meal at a time! Scary right!
That’s exactly what the Netflix film The Platform promises. Scare.The scariest dystopian future- the horror of Capitalism!
The Platform, from the very beginning, promises you what it is here to deliver- a not-so-subtle critique of the class inequality and ill effects of capitalism. The audience sees the film from Goreng’s (excellently portrayed by Iván Massagué) point of view when one fine morning (nobody actually knows whether its morning or otherwise), he wakes up in the vertical cell number 48 in the hole. The prison doesn’t look like the ones you have seen before. Along with the four walls, it has a hole in the center that allows you to see downwards, but never lets you see what is there on top! A classic class and power structure metaphor.
Goreng wakes up to this pit and sees an old man Trimagasi, in front of him as his cellmate. Goreng’s journey begins, holding the hand of this old man, who appears to be the wise owl in a jungle where quite a few wolves are waiting for their share of food every day. Thanks to a table, filled with food, which gets lowered using the platform.
By the time food reaches the floor Goreng is in, there is hardly any left, thanks to uncivilized eating patterns from the top. Consume more than what you need- the steadfast rule of Capitalism.
The scare unfolds for Goreng (and for the audience), as he gets to know the reality of the place bit by bit from Trimagasi. Goreng tells Trimagasi that he volunteered to be part of the pit and complete his ‘six-months course’ because he wants to quit smoking! Like seriously? At this point, I thought I have signed up for another No Smoking. But then, I liked No Smoking, so I thought, let’s see how bad it gets from here! But, it just got better, with every floor that Goreng was put in.
The Platform is like a video game maze, where you go to different levels and face challenges programmed at that particular level with whatever resources you have. Be it the Samurai Plus (the self-sharpening knife) that Trimagasi brought with him to the pit when he arrived or the Don Quixote (a cult classic by Miguel De Cervantes) that Goreng brings with himself. The choice of his book tells a lot about what Goreng’s role is going to be in the film.
Cervantes saw Don Quixote as a new kind of hero. A hero that is neither ironic nor mindless, but one who stays true to himself and find his own way. An image of a hero and not a saint, who is a godsend to save the world. In his book, he highlights the human need to withstand suffering and struggle. Goreng is that Don Quixote at the pit. He not only carries the book with him, but he also gets into this crusade further, to ultimately send a message ‘to the top’.
The Platform, directed by Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia, never provides you a cushion of comfort. Every time the food on the platform passes from one floor to the other, he tries to remind you of your privilege. No matter which economic class you belong to, the upper, middle, or lower, Urrutia wants you to see the inequality with a glaring glass in his hand.
A prisoner (although the people in the pit were never really called prisoners), who was part of the administration that runs the system, tries to bring some order by propagating the message of ‘there is enough for all if we consume responsibly’, but it falls on deaf ears, of the people at the bottom. They are all part of the culture that they have seen for days and months and would do no better. It’s only when Goreng threatens them that they would get ‘shit’ with their food, they listened. Urrutia stirs your conscience, telling you why fear and hate are dominant factors over empathy and kindness.
The rich have, for centuries, ripped our nature apart for their benefits. They have hollowed the mines, took out thousand square kilometers of forests, commercialized once naturally flowing water, polluted the seas, and oppressed the marginalized in a phased manner. A divide that has only widened over the years, with no end in sight. The Platform, lets you live both the extremes. While Goreng sees the apathy and the horror of hunger and death on the 202nd floor, he also experiences greed and sex of the people on the fifth floor, who are at a level higher than him. Every inmate, knowing very well, that the table might just turn upside down in the very next month when they are put into a new floor, just live to survive in the pit.
Like any dystopian society portrayed in films, there are no set rules of the pit. People within the pit make their rules, just to break them as and when the situation demands. Killing each other for survival remains constant.
But, it is on the 6th floor that the real Don Quixote in Goreng arises. Having seen the best and worst of the world he was part of in the pit, he decided to be on a crusade. Not alone of course, but with his Sancho Panza, Baharat, whom he meets on the same floor. You remember Don Quixote and Don Quixote’s endurance and through Sancho’s loyal wisdom. Director Urrutia takes you through this exact journey with Goreng and Baharat, who decide to get on a mission to reach the bottom of the pit and make sure that every prisoner in the pit gets something to eat. And of course, to ‘send a message’ to the administration by saving up the most delicious food on the platform that they have restored the morale of humanity!
But all hope is not lost in the Platform. Women in this Urrutia’s film are the saving grace of humanity. Whether it is Imoguiri, whom Goreng meets on the 33rd floor or Miharu, who saves Goreng from getting killed are trying to make sense in this madness. Imoguiri, who is suffering from cancer and has worked in the administration for more than two decades, volunteers to spend her last few days in the pit and tries really hard to put things in order through compassion and mutual respect. Miharu, on the other hand, is trying to save her kid who shows motherly compassion for an injured Goreng and a fierce claw to those who try to stop her from her goal to save her child. A reminder to our present global scenario, where women leaders across the world are handling the coronavirus pandemic way better in their countries than certain men who once promised to make ‘America Great Again’.
Injured in their crusade Goreng and Baharat meet the child at the lowest floor (330) of the pit where she becomes the last cellmate that Goreng stays a day with. It is an inverted journey. His cellmates age, that starts with an old Trimagasi with cynical ideas of life and desperation to live and get out of the pit becomes that of a young 16-year-old, who doesn’t utter a word and is set to send a message to the administration by Goreng.
A message that the protection of our ‘future’ is in each one of our hands. We all need to be the Don Quixotes in our own narratives to save the world from the grave danger of inequality it has become. Together, we have to make way for those migrant laborers who are at the end of the pit and are forced to walk for hundreds of kilometers on foot because of a sudden lockdown announced. Relook at some of our privileges and start feeling a sense of gratitude for what we have.
To think about what we are leaving for our future as we pass the food from our platform to the other.
Someday, we might be able to take only as much as we need and pass on the rest for the others. Someday we might all understand that ‘the world has enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed.’
Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.