The Platform

The Platform (2019) is a Spanish thriller film written by David Desola and directed by Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia currently available on Netflix [1]. The story is about numerous prisoners inside a tower with a center platform that brings food from the top level to the bottom every single day. As you can imagine, the prisoners who stay on the top get to enjoy as much food as they want whereas those on the bottom leave no choice but kill each other for flesh. Every month, the prisoners are put on a different level until they finish their stay in the tower.

This movie immediately reminds me of another film, In Time (2011), that I watched a while ago. The concept is similar — inequality in resource distribution, simply replacing time with food. Both are essential to survive. No time, you die. No food, you die. The rich, or the ones on top levels in The Platform, get to have an excess amount of resources but often forget there are other people struggling with poverty.

I do not want to spoil too much but every single character seems to represent a certain type of people in our society. The main character Goreng (played by Iván Massagué) brings us into this insane world as an outsider and slowly evolves to adapt to whatever happens in the society. At first, you refuse to accept the leftover foods from everyone above you and gradually you learn there is no other way but to take it so you can survive. One day, you get lucky and have plenty of untouched food. But then you ask yourself, should I cherish this precious opportunity to eat as much as a human can or try to do something magnificent to break the stupid hierarchy?

Another character Miharu (played by Alexandra Masangkay) represents a poor but fearless mother who would do whatever it takes to find her child. [Spoiler Alert] It turns out she is not crazy and she indeed has a child on the bottom level. The little girl seems well-fed and unharmed, indicating the mother has been bringing her food and keeping her safe on the deepest level. As the platform goes deeper and deeper, people on the bottom levels basically lose their minds. Some commit suicide, and others become murderers. Miharu gets assaulted or hit every time she travels down on the platform, but what is more important than her life itself? Her child.

[Spoiler Alert] The movie has an open ending. You may be puzzled like me and wondering “what happened at the end?” or “what did the production team try to convey?” It is like the ending in Inception (2010) — the totem is still spinning. Is it real or is it still a dream?

So I looked it up. The “spontaneous sense of solidarity” mentioned in the film means at some point, the prisoners should realize the best or the only way for everyone to survive is to help each other by taking just as much as they NEED, instead of as much as they WANT [2]. This is tricky because even if you do agree to only take as much as you need, how would you know other people would do the same? What if you were the only person doing it? Would it still be worth it? How to spread the message and inform everybody?

The little girl, on the other hand, represents the resilience of humanity [3]. People step on each other, and fight for every pit of resources. There is no more friendship. No more ethics or morality. Not after a certain point. As brutal and scary as society is, somehow the little girl survives. It may be unlikely but if she manages to get to Level 0, perhaps the rulers would get the message and stop the insaneness.

I am not saying communism in China, Cuba, North Korea, Laos, or Vietnam is good [4]. I am saying everything to the extreme, including capitalism, makes us wonder: is it getting worse? Is it really worth it? Can we stop the progression? Do we need a new leader? According to a recent analysis, extreme capitalism is “a condition in which large companies and rich people raise too much money and leave too little for the rest of society. As a result, the public has not enough money to increase consumption. Demand is not increasing and the market is not growing… The capital they accumulated became useless. Economic growth saturates and diminishes [5].”

I never liked thriller/horror films but The Platform broadens my horizon and makes me think about the issues that I typically don’t think about. With 7/10 on IMDb and 79% on Rotten Tomatoes, this movie has received 24 nominations and 12 wins, including the Grolsch People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival [6].