There’s an ingenious idea at the dark heart of the Netflix-acquired Spanish thriller The Platform, slithering online just in time to make certain viewers feel extra guilty for ram-raiding their local supermarkets this past week. It’s a devilish recipe, cooked up from portions of Cube, Saw and Snowpiercer yet with a pungency all of its own, offering those locked away at home a bleak, timely reminder of the need for solidarity and the importance of the collective over the individual – or the grim consequences that might follow.
Reminiscent of the Allegory of the Long Spoons parable, The Platform imagines a brutalist building with an unknown number of levels. Each one contains two people, some of whom are prisoners while others are volunteers entering in exchange for some form of payment. At the very top, on level zero, a grand buffet is sent down through the middle of the room. Each pairing must then eat what they can or what they think they should before it moves down to the next. There’s enough food for all levels but for it to be rationed out equally, it relies on participants to only take what they need. Each month, the pairings are moved to a different level. If you wake up on six then you’re in for a feast but if you happen to wake up on 123 then things are about to get nasty.
It’s a horror film with something to say yet one that manages to do so without feeling heavy-handed, director Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia nimbly taking us deeper into a progressively nasty hellscape, one with shifting moral viewpoints and precious little optimism. It might not be a world many of us want to visit at this particular moment but genre fans will find plenty here to admire, having already awarded it the People’s Choice Award within the Midnight Madness strand at last year’s Toronto film festival. The screenwriters, David Desola and Pedro Rivero, take their nifty conceit to intriguing, ever-surprising places, refusing to answer every overarching question yet having fun with the many devious possibilities such a horrifying structure could contain.
Our well-intentioned everyman, Goreng, played by Iván Massagué, enters at level 47 with a certain amount of hope, naively expecting respect from those above and decency from his cellmate. But it soon becomes clear that greed and fear rule above all else. He’s labelled a communist for believing in the importance of rations and throughout the film, we see how his journey between the many platforms starts to affect his own morality and strategy, forcing him to do things he would have previously thought impossible.
There’s a brutal efficiency to the storytelling, swiftly, heartlessly propelling us up and down the building, forcing us to bear witness to a great many horrors. It requires a strong stomach, especially as we see what happens on the lower levels, yet the gore feels in service of a greater idea, one that continues to evolve as the film progresses. It’s a gloomy little movie yet it moves with such ferocious speed that we find ourselves glued to the screen, gasping and wincing, cautiously anticipating exactly just how bad things can get, although I’d argue that the final scene doesn’t land with quite the impact I was hoping for.
Ultimately, The Platform might not have that much to say (this certainly isn’t a Bong Joon-ho commentary on class) but what it does say, it says effectively and ruthlessly, eschewing a tap on the shoulder for a punch in the face instead. It’s an uneasy ride to the bottom, one that many won’t want to take right now, but one that others will find hard to resist and even harder to shake.
Source: The Guardian