You should watch The Platform, a 2019 Spanish horror sci-fi film on netflix. I watched it, and it’s excellent. But I will add that I will never watch it again. Never.
It’s one of the most disturbing movies I’ve seen in my life. After watching it, I thought about the movie and its complex meaning for days. The platform is so awful and so annoying that I just let the memory of it fade away. I’m glad it exists, but I never need to sit down and watch it again. Here’s why.
The platform takes place in a futuristic prison – a vertical tower, with an open hole in the middle of each cell. A platform filled with food descends through the cells to feed the prisoners. That’s the genius and the horror of this film.
The deck begins loaded with delicacies of all types created by chefs. But it only stops briefly at each cell floor, where the two prisoners on that level have a very limited time to swallow whatever they can get. And they can’t just shovel the food back into their cell to be eaten later, because they’ll be killed if they try to hoard anything.
So the prisoners on the upper level are given food untouched, and as the platform descends, it turns into a mess of half-chewed leftovers and garbage. High level prisoners don’t care about the leftover food once she leaves them, so they don’t care about keeping the rig hygienic, if you know what I mean and I think you do .
Inmates are randomly assigned to a different level in the prison, and their level changes every month. If you’re near the top, you have a good chance of getting fairly un-mutilated chow. If you’re down there, you’re basically eating spat out, mangled leftovers — if there’s even anything edible left.
The Platform metaphor is obvious.
“There are three kinds of people,” intones a character. “Those above, those below and those who fall.”
Some people, often by sheer luck or happenstance, find themselves at the top of the heap, eating the best delicacies and leading a fairly easy life. I think of those silver spoon babies who are said to be “born on third base and think they hit a triple”.
Others arrive at the bottom of society and, unless they win the lottery, risk dying before they have progressed. They will also often do almost anything to get ahead.
And there is another group — those who start well, eat well, placed on a high level where food is plentiful and spotless. But then they fall to a lower level, where the cakes and steaks they once enjoyed are just dreams. (Some, of course, go higher. But in The Platform, if you’re not at the very top, you’re pretty much screwed.)
It may seem simplistic. We must take advantage of opportunities to recover, to learn, to eat better. Yeah, in The Platform, none of that applies. You were born – or placed – where you are placed. A toss determines whether you go up or down, and how far in either direction. It’s not fair, but when you’re at the top, you take what you want without thinking about those who do worse.
As one character points out, if everyone in the prison only ate what they needed from The Platform, they would come down with enough food to feed everyone. But greed, fear and the gnawing memory of hunger means that’s unlikely to happen.
Every day is a fight for survival in The Platform.
You might think that’s enough for a plot on its own. But The Platform is full of endless surprises, most of which I won’t divulge. Here are a few, and they’re not real spoilers because they take some bizarre turns that you can’t even imagine reading them here:
- There’s a bloodied woman coming down the platform, looking for her daughter, realizing that every level she descends contains two prisoners who are as likely to try to kill her as not.
- Each prisoner is allowed to bring one item into the prison with them, and some of these items are strange. (The main character chooses a copy of Don Quixote.) Like Chekov’s pistol, they are never unimportant.
- Prisoners believe there are 200 levels. Emphasis on “believing”.
- We don’t know as much about the prisoners, the prison, or really anything in this movie as we think.
Now I’m a Gen Xer, raised in the era of slasher movies. I’ve seen disturbing movies. I watched Audition, Clockwork Orange and even Human Centipede. (I’m so, so sorry for that last one.)
But the platform is different. His social comment might seem obvious: be nice to those below you, because you yourself never know when you’ll be at your lowest. But director Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia and screenwriters David Desola and Pedro Rivero take a seemingly simple concept and present it in a heartbreaking way.
I don’t want to see The Platform again. But from time to time, I think about it. The plot is still running through my head, and I’m not sure I’ll ever be completely free of it.
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First published Feb 28, 2023 at 12:10 a.m. PT.
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