You may feel Netflix’s release of high-concept Spanish thriller The Platform last weekend amounts to a public-spirited appeal for sanity among those hunkered down and munching their way through a panic-bought personal food mountain. You may, equally, see it as an act of quite staggeringly cynical opportunism feeding fear at a time when many are seeking mindless escapism. Either way, the fact that The Platform’s very existence on the streaming service is a point of contention is apt for a film that provides a giant plateful of food for thought.
The Platform follows the stoic Goreng (Iván Massagué) as he begins six months as a voluntary inmate at a towering prison facility in which the two-person concrete cells are stacked one on top of another. A hole in the ceiling and floor allows the passage of a table full of immaculately presented and decadent food from the very top of the tower – floor zero – to the very bottom. Each month, the cellmates wake up on a different floor, apparently at random, meaning last month’s haves are this month’s have-nots.
The organisation behind the tower – about whose motivations we learn very little, other than this is, apparently, a social experiment – insists the food provided is enough to adequately feed all of the inmates. The problem is that the system relies on their own restraint, generosity and care for the other inmates so, of course, it doesn’t work. Those at the top eat like pigs; by the time the table has reached floor 50 there’s nothing left but bones and broken crockery. The hardship this creates pushes some inmates on the starving lower floors to cannibalism.
Goreng, we’re quickly led to understand, is different. Where others have brought weapons as their luxury item, he’s brought a book: Don Quixote. He’s there not as punishment for a crime, but in exchange for a diploma. By his interactions with his pedantic, self-interested cellmate Trimagasi (the devilishly infuriating Zorion Eguileor) and, later, the idealistic Imoguiri (Antonia San Juan), we come to see him as an agent of change, albeit one willing to resort to brute force to effect it.
Amid the claustrophobia, director Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia delivers a movie with great humour, terrible, gory horror and violence, beautifully brutalist cinematography and a terrific script. It also – sadly – has a disappointingly woolly ending, in which the clever fable takes on blunt, quasi-religious overtones.
Premiered at Toronto International Film Festival in 2019, you suspect that the point Gaztelu-Urrutia was originally making related broadly to the problem of food supply and inequality in global terms, a broad warning that would have been easily forgotten following the roll of the credits. The serendipitous timing of The Platform’s release during the coronavirus pandemic reframes it as a masterpiece of make-u-think moviemaking for every single one of us, whether you’re sitting pretty on a bog roll mountain or staring down an empty cupboard. Consider it prescribed viewing for self-isolation – and remember its message next time you’re ravaging shelves in the supermarket.
- Director: Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia
- Starring: Ivan Massagué, Zorion Eguileor, Antonia San Juan
- Release date: March 20 (Netflix)