If you’re looking for some escapism to forget about the fact that you’re stuck in a confined space for months on end (maybe even having to potentially ration your food) The Platform might not be on your watchlist at the moment. In any other circumstances however, The Platform offers an intense, claustrophobic experience with a healthy dose of apt social commentary. The film centres around a prison in which a platform of food is lowered between hundreds of levels, with each level containing two inmates who can eat only the preceding levels’ leftovers. The parable here is that if everyone ate only their fair share, there’d be enough for all. But alas, humanity just doesn’t seem capable of this.
The first thing to note is how gorgeously the film is shot. Despite the concrete-lined interiors, the colours and lighting are done to absolute perfection, endowing the film with a sense of richness and visual depth. While the production design is clearly limited and simple, the film never looks cheap or inauthentic. In short, the visual presentation is far greater than the sum of its parts. Then there’s Aránzazu Calleja’s musical score. While conveying the leads’ dread and despair, its use of cutlery-like percussion adds a macabre whimsicality to the proceedings. It creates an experience difficult to describe without simply seeing the film and is suitably fitting for the high-concept premise.
Speaking of which, the premise truly is brilliant, in all its allegorical glory. As we follow the lead, Goreng – a man who has recently (voluntarily) joined the prison in exchange for a diploma – we witness the worst of humanity’s selfishness and greed, as well as the lengths people will go to during times of despair. Without spoiling anything, the acts committed by the inmates range from awful to awfully horrifying. The performances are all solid, with Zorion Eguileor as Goreng’s cellmate/floormate/levelmate Trimagasi being the standout.
The film’s restrictive setting and premise likely explains the simplicity of its plot. Despite risking becoming repetitive at times, the script manages to make passage of time interesting with various twists and plot developments. It is also filled to the brim with symbolism. From characters being named after foods, places or phrases in languages such as Malay, Indonesian or Arabic (despite the film being in Spanish), to the number of inmates that the prison can house (which is not explicitly stated, but easily worked out), these all serve to create a larger-than-life film perfectly suited for social commentary.
However, there isn’t much opportunity for emotional investment in the characters besides the surface level aim of survival and Goreng’s eventual plight. While complex and well-defined characters are not required in every film, some more characterisation may have provided additional emotional resonance. Furthermore, the conclusion is just frustratingly ambigious. That is simply to say that even a hint of the final event’s fallout would have been welcome and more satisfying.
The Platform certainly isn’t for everyone. Almost entirely devoid of any moments of hope and full of gruesome imagery, it can be easily off-putting for some. However, despite its narrative shortcomings, the film’s high-concept premise is executed incredibly well with great performances, effective social commentary and a totally unique thriller experience. If you and your self-isolation compatriots are growing increasingly frustrated with each other’s constant presence, The Platform shows us that things could be much, much worse.
Image: Ichigo121212 via pixabay