The Platform / El hoyo (dir. Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia, 2020) – Two people wake on a cell in a vertical prison, where one single food platform descends to feed the occupants of each level for two minutes per day.
For every person that lives in excess, there is another who survives on none. Some inherit their wealth. Others are born into poverty. Unfortunately, the class divide in this world keeps widening and we struggle to keep people from falling through the gap.
The Platform illustrates this harrowing divide in an almost literal analogy. The grim urban legend is told through the eyes of Goreng (Ivan Massagué), who awakes to find himself on Level 48 of a seemingly endless vertical shaft. Every day, food on a massive platform descends to each level for two minutes.
When the food finally arrives on his floor, all he has to feed on are the unappetising leftovers from above. He refuses to eat in protest until his cellmate Trimagasi (Zorion Eguileor) reveals an uncomfortable truth. Every cellmate would be reassigned to a different level at random every month. No one is in control of their own fates as they may find themselves on lower levels – without food – at any point.
It is all a twisted game of sheer luck, much like how unpredictable circumstance leaves us at varying starting points in life. In his ambitious debut feature, Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia successfully transforms our complex reality into a simple vertical prison.
His societal critique, which takes cue from films like Snowpiercer and Cube, is by no means subtle in its message. But it is effective. A kitchen sends a generous feast down, uninterested in whether the bottom rung would ever get to feed. Resentment brews beneath and escapes the screen with its weight.
Behind the scenes, we see the chefs cooking up a storm, whilst holding their meals to exceptional standards. There is no ill intent in what they serve, but the how that someone else has long put in place. As a result of their means, it is every man for himself below when they must all fight for food.
Even a pacifist eventually turns to an easy way out for the sake of survival. Many a times, it means violence. The unsustainable nature of the system quickly devolves into desperate acts of crime and suicide. The analogy benefits from its powerful visual form, perfect for horror cinema.
More terror lies in the lack of purpose in the whole exercise. None of the prisoners deserves the extent of their torment. The punishment doled out also appears to be completely arbitrary. It is as though that the system exists, simply because it could. The film is privy to the uncomfortable truth – that we create our own Hell.
If things were to change, it will take more than a few of us to convince. Yet the ones on top see no reason to change things, for they have everything. The ones below have no will to do the same. Many in fact, fear that they may lose what little they have. There is no greater horror than this honest notion that rings scarily true in these times.
In its visually compelling analogy, The Platform carries with it an unsettling critique on the flaws of modern society.