This review of The Platform contains some spoilers…
Half of the world’s net wealth belongs to the top 1%.
A stomach-churning statistic. Think about it. How can there simultaneously be people who are homeless, struggling to make ends meet and dying of hunger, and individuals with more money than they can spend in two hundred lifetimes? But that’s capitalism in the crudest of senses. There’s been a lot of talk about capitalism in recent weeks because of the COVID-19 pandemic. A pandemic that has penetrated our lives. A pandemic that has brought some of the most glorious cities in the world to their knees.
The deadly Coronavirus and the subsequent measures taken by world leaders to contain the problem has brought out the worst in many. There are people who aggressively oppose the idea of a ‘lockdown’ as it all but guarantees a global economic recession. Some have openly suggested that they’d much rather sacrifice a couple of million people like sheep in a slaughterhouse, than let their precious Wall Street crumble to the ground. It’s a sickening thought.
So it’s easy to see why The Platform is all the rage right now. Its release date may be purely coincidental, but it’s a raw representation of what’s going on in the world right now. The Platform isn’t a great film (and I’ll get to that later), but by the end of it, you’ll certainly feel a sharp pain in your gut because of how hard debutant director Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia punches it. Repeatedly.
The premise is simple. Goreng (Ivan Massague) wakes up in a windowless, grey concrete room. In the centre of the floor and the ceiling is a large square hole. Through the hole, Goreng sees rooms identical to his, above and below, across countless floors — hundreds, maybe (just exactly how many, you’ll only find out later). Each room consists of two people. Goreng’s companion is an elderly man named Trimagasi (Zorion Eguileor). Now, here’s where things get truly f*cked up. Every day, a platform filled with immaculate delicacies is presented to the topmost floor, or floor 1 as it is labelled on the wall. After the folks at floor 1 gobble up whatever they can, the same platform descends to the second floor and then the third and then the fourth and on and on it goes. (Quick note: Each floor is only given a few minutes to eat. And you can’t take food off the platform and keep it for later, or you’ll be killed.)
When the platform reaches Goreng’s 48th floor, what’s left is disgusting scraps of meat sticking to its bones, an unfinished bottle of wine and other leftovers. It’s a deplorable sight, one that mirrors a washbasin of a back alley restaurant. But Goreng isn’t at the bottom. What would the platform look like when it reaches, say, the 70th floor? At the beginning of every month, you’ll wake up on a new floor — it could be higher or lower.
The Platform isn’t subtle with its messaging. Frankly, it’s not even trying to be. If every floor only eats what they need, if they eat only to alleviate their hunger, there would be enough food for everybody. But that’s not how the system is. That’s not how human beings are. Instead, the people at the top floor gorge, gobble and gormandize without a care in the world about the floors beneath them. The bottom demand for more, but when they find themselves on a higher floor the following month, they do the same thing too, reinforcing a system that they once ferociously hated.
This isn’t a finger-wagging “speech” movie, though — a hole a lot of “message movies” tend to fall into. The Platform plays out like a thriller with disturbing imagery. There’s an artistically disgusting montage that will make you barf in your mouth as your heart sinks all the way to the bottom of your testicles, thinking of all the times you might’ve overindulged. It’s also not cynical. Urrutia and writers David Desola and Pedro Rivero tell you that there’s much hope left for humanity. That a man, who when asked what one item he’d like to take with him to the cell, chose a book, not a weapon, would be our best hope. But, the system can’t be changed or broken without sacrifices along the way. Perhaps there will be some bloodshed. Perhaps there will be deaths, a lot of whom will be people at the bottom. And perhaps the guy with the book may have to pick up a steel rod at least for a little while, for things to truly change.
The Platform is an engrossing single location thriller that couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. So, what prevents it from being great? Chunks of the second act can be a little repetitive, especially once you already get what the film is trying to say. It almost feels like an ingenious idea for a short film that was stretched into a 90-minute feature, unlike say Bong Joon-Ho’s masterpiece Snowpiercer, which also tackled a somewhat similar subject matter. But there, grandmaster Bong crafted fantastic action set-pieces that are unique and memorable. The film was also filled with brilliant moments of drama and comedy as well as characters with depth. The journey is far more enthralling.
The Platform doesn’t have characters per se, only individuals that represent ideals or certain belief systems encapsulated by the item of their choosing. Most people bring weapons. A lonely woman has a dog. As mentioned, Goreng, who ends up being a messiah-like figure (I don’t think it’s an accident that he kinda looks like Jesus Christ), has a book.
Snowpiercer is also a lot more nuanced. There’s a lot more to ponder upon, imagery to savour and dissect. The solution to “world hunger” isn’t as straightforward. But maybe that’s what’s fascinating about The Platform. It suggests that the answer, sometimes, is really that simple. But actually executing it?
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