Director: Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia
Writers: David Desola (story and screenplay) and Pedro Rivero (screenplay)
Starring: Ivan Massague, Zorion Eguileor, Antonia San Juan
Where to watch: Netflix
“The Platform” opens on a pleasant scene. Chefs prepare gourmet dishes with care while a man in a white suit inspects their work. That’s where the pleasantness ends. “The Platform” is a brutal commentary on capitalism, trickle-down economics, and human nature. Perfect for fans of “Snowpiercer” and horror with a message, “The Platform” explores tough questions about human rights and what happens to society when they aren’t upheld.
After his acceptance to the Vertical Self-Management Center, which is controlled by the mysterious “Administration,” Goreng wakes up in a cell. He’s told by his cellmate, an old man who’s been at the VSMC for a while, that they are on level 48 (a “good level”) for one month. Goreng is confused. He clearly has no idea what he signed up for. A light on the wall turns green. A platform of mostly-eaten food descends from a hole in the ceiling. Goreng’s cellmate eats frantically. This platform descends once a day and stops at each 2-person cell for only 2 minutes. Prisoners can’t keep any food for later or the cell becomes fatally hot or cold.
For the month Goreng and his cellmate are on level 48, things seem all right. Then, the month is over and all the prisoners are gassed. When Goreng wakes up again, he discovers they have been moved down to level 172. Because no one is rationing the food, there’s none left by the time it reaches them. Having endured a low level before, Goreng’s cellmate is prepared to do whatever it takes to survive.
It’s a dog-eat-dog world
“The Platform” is a clear-cut criticism of capitalism. It’s literally “trickle-down.” This economic theory asserts any benefits for the wealthy “trickle down” to everyone else in society. In the theory, benefits are tax cuts, but “The Platform” takes a more literal view: the benefits are food. While there is enough food for everyone to eat their fair share, there are no mechanisms to ensure that happens. Without a system that protects people at the bottom, the top takes everything.
This message is most smoothly applied to the distribution of wealth and resources, but it also speaks to how all human rights are accessed. Around the world, rights like shelter, healthcare, and a living wage are not allocated equally. Only the privileged get access to prosperity while the basic rights of the poor and marginalized are violated. Without a framework that harnesses wealth and privilege to protect the most vulnerable, society will become dog-eat-dog. Human rights fall by the wayside.
Heart of darkness
The “Platform” has a lot to say about human nature and what happens to people when their rights aren’t respected. Violating a person’s rights dehumanizes them. If someone is told long enough that they aren’t human, what horrors are they capable of? “The Platform” doesn’t shy away from answering that question, as well as questions like, “Are there any just choices in an unjust society?” Goreng, the film’s hero, and another character – a former Administration employee – try at several points to encourage solidarity among the prisoners. However, in Goreng’s own words, “Change never happens spontaneously.” The VSMC is trapped in a destructive cycle where people are literally eating each other. Can one person make a difference in the face of such atrocities? To get an idea of where “The Platform” stands on that question, you’ll have to watch the movie for yourself.
Who should see “The Platform?”
With its sci-fi minimalism and explicit commentary on class and privilege, “The Platform” combines the essences of “Snowpiercer” and “Cube.” Like “Cube,” the movie is set in a series of rooms with a mysterious force calling the shots. Like “Snowpiercer,” there’s a clear message behind the shock and gore. “The Platform” is not an easy movie to watch. There’s cannibalism and cruelty. Surprisingly, a thread of optimism weaves through the story, so it doesn’t fall completely into despair. While the movie isn’t afraid to peer into the darkest corners of society and the human heart, it’s also eager to find the light.
“The Platform” would be a great movie to discuss in courses about human rights and/or class privilege and how the media portrays them. It’s also a good watch for anyone who loves dystopian sci-fi stories. While the exact nature of the Administration is left to the imagination, its presence weighs heavy on the viewer. If you’re a social-minded storyteller looking for some inspiration, “The Platform” delivers.