The Platform (film)
Promotional release poster
|Directed by||Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia|
|Produced by||Carlos Juárez|
|Story by||David Desola|
|Music by||Aranzazu Calleja|
|Cinematography||Jon D. Domínguez|
The Platform (Spanish: El hoyo, transl. The Hole) is a Spanish science fiction-thriller film, directed by Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia and released in 2020. The film is set in a large, tower-style "Vertical Self-Management Center". Its residents, who are periodically switched at random between its many floors, are fed via a platform which, initially filled with food at the top floor, gradually descends through the tower's levels, each level getting only the leftovers from the previous ones. It is a system bound to cause conflict, as the residents at the top levels can eat as much as they can, leaving increasingly little for those below.
The film premiered at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival, where it won the People's Choice Award for Midnight Madness. At TIFF, the film also secured a worldwide streaming deal with Netflix. It was released on the streaming service on 20 March 2020.
Goreng awakes in a concrete cell marked with the number 48. His cellmate, Trimagasi, explains that they are in a "Vertical Self-Management Center", a tower-style facility in which food is delivered via a platform that travels from the top, stopping for a fixed period on each floor. Those on lower levels are able to eat only what those above leave them, and the cell is heated or cooled to fatal temperatures if food is hoarded. People are randomly reassigned to a new level every month. Each resident is allowed to bring one item in with them, Goreng choosing a copy of Don Quixote, and Trimagasi a self-sharpening knife. One day, a bloodied woman named Miharu rides down on the platform. Trimagasi explains that she descends down the pit every month in search of her child.
As they talk, it is revealed that Goreng volunteered to spend six months in the facility in exchange for a diploma, and Trimagasi is serving a year-long sentence for manslaughter. Over the first month, they become friendly, but on the day of the room shuffle Goreng wakes up tied to the bed. They have been reassigned to level 171, where the platform is expected to be empty of food when it arrives. Trimagasi explains that he plans to cut strips of Goreng's flesh to sustain them both. On the eighth day, Trimagasi cuts into Goreng's leg but is attacked by Miharu as she comes down the platform. She frees Goreng and he kills Trimagasi. Miharu cuts some of Trimagasi's flesh, feeding Goreng and eating some herself before continuing down.
In the third month, Goreng awakes on level 33 with a woman, Imoguiri. Goreng recognizes her as the Administration official who interviewed him before sending him to the cells. She says she was unaware of the horrible conditions and volunteered to try to fix things when she was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Imoguiri rations her food and attempts to convince those below to do so as well, but they ignore her. Goreng mentions Miharu's search for her child to Imoguiri, but Imoguiri says that children under 16 are not allowed into the facility and Miharu entered alone. Goreng awakens the following month on level 202 and finds that Imoguiri has hanged herself. Goreng eats her flesh to survive, experiencing hallucinations of her and Trimagasi instructing him to do so.
At the start of the fifth month, Goreng is assigned to level 6. His new cellmate, Baharat, attempts unsuccessfully to climb to the upper level. Estimating that there are 250 levels, Goreng convinces Baharat to ride the platform down with him, rationing the food so all get a share. As they descend, they hand out portions to the prisoners, attacking those who refuse to cooperate. On the way they encounter Miharu fighting two other inmates and try to save her, but she is killed and they are severely injured. Goreng and Baharat continue to descend, eventually reaching level 333 where the platform stops. Goreng notices a child hiding under the bed. He gets off the platform, followed hesitantly by Baharat, only to have the platform continue downward, leaving them behind. The child is actually a girl, Miharu's daughter. Despite Baharat's reluctance, they feed her an untouched panna cotta they had been saving as a "message" for the Administrators at the top.
Goreng passes out and dreams of Baharat telling him that "the girl is the message." The next day, Goreng finds Baharat dead of his injuries, and takes the child with him when the platform arrives. They descend to the bottom of the pit, where he once again sees Trimagasi, who tells him that "the message requires no bearer." Goreng gets off the platform and walks away with Trimagasi, both turning to watch as the girl ascends.
- Iván Massagué as Goreng, named after gorèng, which means "fried" in Malay/Indonesian.
- Zorion Eguileor (eu) as Trimagasi, named after terima kasih, which stands for "thank you" in Malay/Indonesian language
- Antonia San Juan as Imoguiri, named after Imogiri, a royal Javanese cemetery in Indonesia.
- Emilio Buale Coka as Baharat, named after baharat, which means spice in Arabic used in Middle Eastern, Turkish and Greek cuisines.
- Alexandra Masangkay as Miharu
- Eric L. Goode as Sr. Brambang, named after brambang, a Javanese word for shallot.
Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia says the film's key message is that "humanity will have to move towards the fair distribution of wealth", with an exploration of the importance of individual initiative in driving political change that critiques both capitalism and "socialist systems". The film script is based on a theatre script by David Desola and Pedro Rivero, to which more action and physical elements were added to make it more suitable for a film. "Extensive" rewriting was required to convert the unproduced theater script into a film script. The director said it was a "torturous ordeal", as the writers defended their artistic vision and did not want some of the changes to be made.
The cement prison cells were built for the production in a Red Cross facility in a port in Bilbao. The director asked for cells that looked "economical, robust, [and] impregnable", which emphasized a sense of architectural and engineering proportion. Only two tiers of concrete cells were built; the appearance of many tiers of cells extending above and below each cell (visible from the hole in the center of each cell) was added in post-production using special effects. The director says the vertical tower of cells "represents the dehumanized coldness of the Vertical Self-Management Center.
The director states that the film's lavish "food was treated as another character in the story, one that is aesthetically antagonistic to the architecture of the prison." The luxurious displays of gourmet food were presented on "Versailles-worthy tableware" to depict "excessive, almost erotic, opulent desire" that is eventually "desecrated" once the near-empty platform reaches the abject, starving inmates on the lower levels.
The director acknowledges that the film can be difficult to watch, but he says the purpose of this approach is to generate discussion and debate by viewers about the political messages. When asked about the film's brutal violence and cannibalism, the director said the prison's "hole is a reflection of our society, [so] it couldn’t hide the violence. It had to show how we rip each other apart".
The film uses two actors who are cast against type; Iván Massagué and Antonia San Juan, who are known for their comedic roles, were chosen to lighten the film's weighty subject by adding "humour, irony and surrealism". The film was shot chronologically, as the main actor Iván had to lose 12 kilos over the six-week shoot to show his physical deterioration.
On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 83% based on 52 reviews with an average rating of 7.43/10. The website's critics consensus reads: "While it may feel muddled at times, The Platform is an inventive and captivating dystopian thriller." Norman Wilner of Now correctly predicted that the film would win the People's Choice Award, giving it a five-N rating and writing that the film "has everything: low comedy, political allegory, left-field twists, crowd-pleasing surprises, spectacular violence, sadism, altruism and yet more spectacular violence, all wrapped up in a high-concept horror film that moves the premise of Cube into a merciless vertical structure. It’s grotesque and compelling, like grindhouse [Luis] Buñuel. And it never blinks."
Amy Nicholson of Variety wrote that "the film’s minimalist fury feels like the plays of Samuel Beckett. Massagué and Eguileor are up to being in a zesty Waiting for Godot. And Eguileor's nasty, delightful, occasionally tender performance feels like an audition to play a Bond villain, or perhaps the Spanish resurrection of Hannibal Lecter."
The film has garnered new reviews after surging popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sam Jones in The Guardian suggested it was "the perfect parable for life in the time of the coronavirus and a visceral investigation of how a crisis can expose not only the stratification of human society but also the immutable strands of selfishness coded into our DNA."
- Amy Nicholson, "Toronto Film Review: 'The Platform'". Variety, 10 September 2019.
- Jessica Wong, "TIFF 2019: Jojo Rabbit captures TIFF People's Choice Award". CBC News, 15 September 2019.
- Jeremy Kay, "Netflix takes world on TIFF Midnight Madness hit 'The Platform'". Screen Daily, 10 September 2019.
- Rivera, Alfonso (16 October 2020). "Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia • Director of The Platform". cineuropa.org. Cineuropa. Retrieved 5 April 2020.
- Aguilar, Carlos (3 April 2020). ""It Had to Show How We Rip Each Other Apart": Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia on His Vertical Class-Warfare Netflix Dystopia The Platform". filmmakermagazine.com. Filmmaker. Retrieved 5 April 2020.
- "The Platform (El Hoyo) (2019)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved 29 March 2020.
- Norman Wilner, "TIFF review: The Platform (El Hoyo)". Now, 1 September 2019.
- Jones, Sam (16 April 2020). "What Netflix's The Platform tells us about humanity in the coronavirus era". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 16 April 2020.