The Platform – No happy endings, only truths
Netflix taking on The Platform (EL HOYO) might have been the smartest choice this year, except for Tiger King I guess. This foreign psychological horror starring Ivan Massagué and Zorion Eguileor is a must watch! If you’re like me and think the more twisted and disturbing the better, then you’re in for a treat.
Based on a script by David Desola and Pedro Rivero meant for the theatre, some extensive rewriting was necessary in order to have it fit the screen. It was far from easy, with Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia describing it as a “torturous ordeal” as the writers wanted the film to stay true to the script, opposing some of the changes to be made. But for all I care, this battle between the director and writers is what made this movie come together so seamlessly.
The ones above, the ones below, and the ones who fall
The Platform begins with Goreng waking up in a cell, only containing a small sink and two beds. He knows little about where he is and what rules he must assume. And as we press play on Netflix we’re no smarter, just bewildered spectators. Paired with what seems like a knowledgeable man, Trimagasi, he can luckily get some direction. Trimagasi reluctantly serves answers to Goreng’s questions. Constantly adding the word “obvio” (Eng. “obviously“) as if it was a stupid question to begin with.
The precepts are simple: they are (we are) in The Hole, a place with an unknown number of cells. Trimagasi assures Goreng that there are over 200, placed vertically, one on top of the other. A large hole in the centre of the room connects the cells all the way from the top cell to the mysterious bottom. The Hole serves to allow a huge platform full of fresh food to descend. But there’s a catch, obviously! Delicacies that are first tasted by those on level 1 of The Platform, diminishing as it descends. As the top levels indulge, the leftovers decrease more and more for every level, eventually leaving nothing for the bottom cells. The Platform sends the leftovers down, cell by cell, until they finally disappear.
The Platform offers no break
As chance would have it, Goreng starts out his Platform journey on level 48, accompanied by Trimagasi. He quickly learns that 48 is a decent level to be at, since life is far more difficult on the lower levels, but surprisingly also on the top ones. Every month “they” randomly assign the inmates a new level. The difficulties faced on the lower levels is self explanatory, they will starve. Faced with cannibalism or starvation, they will have to survive for at least 30 days. Keep in mind though, there are no guarantees! The Platform can force an occupant to endure starvation for 30 days, or if they’re unlucky – several months. The unlucky ones can get assigned lower levels repeatedly, forcing them to cannibalism if they want to survive.
The lucky ones aren’t so lucky
But as I mentioned, the upper levels are no piece of cake either. You’d imagine having a gourmet buffet served daily should leave one feeling pretty satisfied? But what if that is the only thing you would have to look forward to? Here Director Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia takes a turn battling the stigma of mental illness being a luxury problem. We realize this as the occupants of the top levels often commit suicide. Something so thought provoking is definitely worth exploring!
While presenting the stigma of mental illness as being a luxury problem, he defies it with the logic of humans’ natural pattern of gravitating to the negative. It’s a cynical view for sure, but does it make sense? Left in a room with all your essential needs covered and only your thoughts to keep you busy, where will you end up? The expectation of life decreases as they have seen the peak of their experience in “The Hole”. I mean, either you master meditation and come out on the other side like Buddha- or you’ll freak the hell out like I would.
Clear social, political and religious implications
The minutes go by, distressing and intense. Fully submerged in the story, we wait for what is coming. A wonderful script written by David Desola and Pedro Rivero. The script obviously read as a metaphor with clear social, political and religious implications. The class struggle, specifically illustrated in the vertical “up to down” hole, and intensified by merely few meters of distance between the cells. We soon find out that some were locked up out of obligation, while others have entered the hole voluntarily. Because, in case anyone had forgotten, “A man is a wolf to another man”. Netflix’s horror movie The Platform provides a blatant display of class difference. The fact that those above have fun defecating on those below can become rather literal.
Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia has now established himself as a director to look out for, and I can’t wait to see what he does next! Shooting in such a small minimalistic space really require the story and actors to deliver 100%, and so they did. Gaztelu-Urritia ability to cut the frames and confine the characters to closed shots to enhance the moment is profound. The cruelty and sadism of many sequences (which doesn’t spare blood and guts) are shown with great consideration. The brutal violence, savagery and gore in “The Hole” is always relevant and never patronizes either the characters or the viewers.
The Platform allows for no happy endings, only truths
The story offers a journey that is as existentialist as it is hopeless. An accusation to human cruelty, but it also analyses how particular resolutions are crucial in social development. Appealing to us spectators, forcing us to take a stand on the decisions we would assume in a similar environment. A desperate call for shared responsibility. There is room for everyone, the active, the passive, the sick, the angry, the insane, the displaced… Because we are all, he finally states “The Hole”, participants of this crazy world.
This combination of genre and political cinema proves to be one of the most risky bets of the year – but it certainly paid off. The interpretations and ethical dilemmas in “The Hole” increase as the story progresses. Although the symbolism is somewhat obvious at times, it doesn’t spoil the narrative. The straight-forward metaphors only increase the suspense. No, “The Hole” is not an elegant movie, it does not seek subtlety, but rather provocation. The voice of The Platform is one with considerable power. It is a psychological, twisted horror/thriller movie definitely worth watching.
I loved watching The Platform. The space, the actors, the narrative, the violence and the symbolism all came together perfectly in my opinion. A must watch for any horror fanatic!
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