The Platform

 

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A banquet on a platform separates the haves and have-nots in this grim Spanish thriller.

  

Platform, The

Table d'hôte: Ivan Massagué (on the left)

  

Imagine a world in which some people grab what they can, leaving the less fortunate with nothing. Imagine a scenario in which the privileged take more than they need, without thinking of those beneath them. One would like to think that this is the stuff of sci-fi horror, were it not for recent events in which that very situation played out in grocery stores and supermarkets across the world. Thus, this nightmarish allegory could not have arrived at a more opportune time.

 

The platform of the title is a dumbwaiter groaning with haute cuisine: lobster, escargot, prosciutto, chocolate gateaux and, most significantly (as it turns out), panna cotta. Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia's horrific parable opens in a bustling kitchen, where an officious maître d' inspects the gastronomic delights before they are loaded onto the platform. Then a voice tells us, “There are three types of person: Those at the top, those at the bottom, and those who fall.” The film takes this notion literarily and runs with it, right into the depths of hell.

 

Our protagonist, Goreng (Ivan Massagué), wakes to find himself in a spartan cell, which he appears to be sharing with an old man, Trimagasi (Zorion Eguileor). The old man, perched on a wooden bed, is staring right back at him. “Level 48,” he says, by way of explanation. The cells in this prison – or Vertical Self-Management Centre – are positioned one on top of the other, with a central shaft plunging between them. Once a day the platform descends, with the two inmates on level 1 permitted to scrounge what they can from the banquet – so long as they don’t keep a crumb for later. Then the platform moves down to the next level, and the next two prisoners have a minute to gorge themselves, too. But the further the platform descends, the less there is to eat, and what is left is half-chewed and covered in the others’ saliva. And still the platform descends, until all that remains are empty dishes and glassware...

 

As the film proceeds, the viewer, like Goreng, pieces together the rules. For instance, each inmate was permitted to bring one item with them from the outside world. Goreng chose a hardback copy of Don Quixote which, under the circumstances, proves impractical. Others opted for a variety of weapons with which to defend themselves. We also discover that Goreng volunteered for his ‘experience’ – in order to win “an accredited diploma” – and had to undergo a rigorous vetting process. Not much else is revealed, the better to keep us involved and guessing.

 

The Platform joins that marginal sub-genre, which includes such films as Cube (1997), Saw (2004), The Maze Runner (2014) and The Hunt (2020), in which a group of strangers awake to find themselves in a bizarre, deadly conundrum. Here, the platform represents what might be a level playing field, but which is abused by those at the top, to the detriment of those literally further down the food chain. Thus, the starving are forced to resort to their wits, cannibalism or worse, many preferring to fall to their deaths rather than suffer the horrors of their lot. But Goreng is a literary man and thinks that there may be a key to surviving this seemingly impossible ordeal…

 

The Platform has novelty on its side, and a compelling message, although its route is a deeply unpleasant journey into man’s vilest whims. Unfortunately, novelty alone cannot hold our interest, as the increasingly objectionable incidents mount up in the place of narrative momentum. Philosophically, Trimagasi states that the inmates above have “nothing to look forward to,” and then spits on the food as it drops down to the next cell. It’s an intriguing set-up and pulls no punches, but it really needs to answer some of the questions it poses.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Iván Massagué, Antonia San Juan, Zorion Eguileor, Emilio Buale Coka, Alexandra Masangkay, Zihara Llana, Eric L. Goode.

 

Dir Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia, Pro Ángeles Hernández and Carlos Juarez, Screenplay David Desola and Pedro Rivero, Ph Jon D. Domínguez, Pro Des Azegiñe Urigoitia, Ed Haritz Zubillaga and Elena Ruiz, Music Aranzazu Calleja, Costumes Azegiñe Urigoitia.

 

Basque Films/Mr. Miyagi Films/Plataforma La Película A.I.E-Netflix.

94 mins. Spain. 2019. Rel: 20 March 2020. Available on Netflix. Cert. 18.