Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia’s 2019 sci-fi movie, The Platform (known as El Hoyo or ‘The Hole’ in Spain), is an enigmatic social commentary about social class and wealth distribution, much like Snowpiercer but this one is vertical. It is elusive from beginning to end, probing more questions than answers, but at the same time delivering the message quite smoothly.
The story sets in a prison-like facility called ‘Vertical Self-Management Facility’ where inmates ranging from the clueless ones to the most brutal are randomly placed and paired in each level. Every day, a platform filled with sumptuous gourmet foods descends each level and stops for a while to allow the inmates to feed themselves. The rule is simple: the foods will not be refilled and you can eat as much as you want, but the platform will keep descending until there’s nothing else left to eat by inmates in lower levels. From there, the message is crystal clear even when it somehow feels a little tongue-to-cheek. However, The Platform refuses to be less enigmatic as the story progresses forward.
Ivan Massagué, usually known for comedic roles, takes up the front page as the ironic protagonist called Goreng. The Platform guides audiences to observe the facilities — how the system is intended to be and how depraved it has become — from his perspectives. He starts off with Trimagasi (Zorlon Eguileor) who introduces him to the whole depravity as the system has strayed from the trajectory. After a while, we’ll see how Goreng’s mental has also descended the longer he stays in the facilities. Massagué brings out the shock therapy with touches of irony and bitterness. His character is a pacifist, but even the subtlest pacifist may not survive the facility becoming the same person when he entered.
Interestingly enough, The Platform feels a little too distant yet so close. It seems that the facility is foreign from the rest of the society (which we only learn from the dialogues but never get to see, except for the culinary team at the top of the system). Making the whole fuckup fairytale more enigmatic, David Desola and Pedro Rivero who co-write the screenplay names each character with a strange name which was altered from random Indonesian words. ‘Goreng’ means ‘fry’ in Indonesian, Trimagasi is a misinterpretation of ‘Terima kasih’, which means ‘thank you’. Even they went on with more obscure names like ‘Imoguiri’ and ‘Brambang.’ Look for the meaning by yourself for a surprise.
After joining up the dots with symbolism after symbolism, it feels that somehow The Platform makes a social commentary to the system of many third-world countries, where the allusion of the whole narrative happens in real life. There is enough resource for everyone; but, the system is flawed; it’s fucked up from the top to the bottom. Those on top of the structure is hungered by worry while everyone underneath is hungered by their worriness. In a blink of an eye, the whole system restarts again, but the flaws take over again and again. People survive with any means they can find, including making drunk references to the faith to benefit themselves. Everyone is fucked up even the most pious one.
The whole moment in The Platform is a ride. It’s unnerving and, at some part, unwatchable. Not for the graphic imagery that Gaztelu-Urrutia often presents, it’s how the whole scheme hits close to home.