In 2019, at the Toronto International Film Festival, the European film “The Platform” was introduced to the world. The Spanish anti-utopia struck dozens of people like a thunderbolt, and in a good sense, so Netflix bought the rights and later released the film on its channel. The plot and the general idea concentrate on the social patterns we have in contemporary life. The film starts with a number of stages and ends with the quantity of food to be consumed as the director, Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia, examines religion, racial discrimination, obesity for some and famine for others on the way to a life statement – The Hole. We shall cover more points to get Mr. Urrutia right in this review.
In 2020, people all around the world were stunned by thrillers and fantasy movies at the same time – “Vivarium” and “The Platform”. The two films have a main point strictly in common – a tightened perspective on the society we live in. However, while they have common ground, they are also different. To my mind, “The Platform” is a new interpretation of life’s traps, from the number of products we consume to the number of victims that have to die annually to attract global attention to our problems. Someone could say it’s a circle, as Galder Urrutia decides to call “The Platform”, or alternative place, The Hole.
The plot introduces us to the rules of The Hole: every month, roommates wake up at different levels inside a perforated concrete structure called The Hole. Everyone has his one possession with him. Whatever else the characters took with them – books, knives, money, animals, and even children – we learn, as the plot unfolds, are forbidden. One of the main rules is the randomness of the level the characters appear in. And what is harder – people get less to eat from the upper level to the lowest one, so nobody is guaranteed to be fed and protected.
Inside a shared room, Goreng (Ivan Massagué) wakes up. Together with a roommate, Trimagasi (Zorion Eguileor) he spends the first month on the 48 stages, getting used to the rules and trying to learn what the Platform looks like. Every day, an automated platform slides up and down, stopping at each floor for several minutes, offering the possibility of eating as much as anyone could. Gradually, we realize not only the present situation at the platform but the past, as the plot is intertwined with flashbacks to the causes that explain why Goreng has decided to spend time here. The plot reveals many more signs that not everyone will notice, but all of them complete the philosophical theme that we must deal with. Shortly, I include several tips and tricks on how we can get the setting right.
At first glance, the Hole is a prototype for socialism
Yes, the general spin of the Platform’s construction is based upon the principles of socialism. So, classes and social strata are clearly shown, so we shouldn’t have a problem noticing how easy food delivery on the upper level is and how hard are the lives of people on level 333. From the introduction, we could get the line that there are three types of people in the world: those who live on the bottom, those who are still on the upper stages, and those who are still falling. Relationships among people are determined by the classes they belong to, and that’s why most conflicts appear. According to the rules, everyone could claim his favourite meal, and there would be enough for everyone. However, in spite of knowing the right portion or taste of the preferred meal, people binge on selfishly.
In general, the director emphasizes social demarcation lines and social abuses at the same time, and naturally, as they exist on the outside. Goreng takes a conscious decision to take part in The Hole for a certificate that might help him to gain respect in society, while his roommate chooses The Hole over a psychiatric hospital, as a kind of punishment for manslaughter.
The Authorities.They are neutral but strong
I don’t know whether you will notice or not, but the administration is a frequently mentioned reality, albeit invisible in the plot. Perhaps The Authorities are a permanent power that controls everyone in The Hole by sliding the platform up and down. But there are neither security cameras nor other tools to maintain surveillance of the society in The Hole. They only thing they can influence is climate change as a penalty for crime, and a platform crammed with tasty food. However, cruelty is hidden inside the main mechanisms: authorities give all that people need at a fixed time, and all the disasters are deserved. Moreover, they have to reserve the decision for themselves. As the levels change, they can never predict who will be above or below, so everyone on the first floor can slide down to 333.
And talking about mysterious numbers, we can’t escape the numerology of sacred writings and the Bible in the context of The Hole. The number 333, multiplied by 2, with two people on each stage, is 666, a well-known diabolic number. A cyclical, blocked system that destroys lives and prevents innovative thinking. As a kind of prediction, the characters cite a quote from the Bible and the commandments of preachers. Even though the second part of the film is more into religion as a theme, not every character embodies its philosophy.
However, the topic of the Bible is quite complicated in this film. First, there are a lot of hidden signs that are nonetheless transparent, as a wise religious man who carries a wooden cross with him refuses to sacrifice himself to save a meal for the lowest stages. These are opposite sides of one person, which means duplicity of faith, and the dark and bright sides of personality. Secondly, there are two warriors who wish to change the system, as our main character and his last roommate, Baharat (Emilio Buale), are characters from the sacral commandment. “Two against the diabolic creature”, as has been said in preaching.
And last but not least, there are prototypes of the Devil and Angel in the form of Trimagasi and Imoguiri (Antonia San Juan), both of whom, predictably, are quite linkable with the theme of religion. But God moves mysteriously, so nobody knows which stage they will occupy tomorrow and who will appear above or below.
Saṃsāra, or the symbol of rebirth
As we know, another meaning of the life span in Buddhism is the Samsara circle – the endless rebirth in karma. To my mind, it squares pretty well with the introductory episodes when dozens of pig’s heads, portions of meat, and fish have been cooking on the upper stage. It doesn’t matter how people are living downstairs, the chef runs the kitchen in full command as a heavy hand is shown by the director. And similarly, the karma laws don’t predict or guarantee we will not be born pigs in another life.
To my mind, all phases in the film connect with the suspense in life
Protagonist vs. Don Quixote
The main item that the protagonist takes with him is a book about a courageous man, Don Quixote, whom we know as a brave and slightly crazy, adventurous nomad. Like the main character of the book, Goreng leads a prototypical life. He decides to change the system and goes against The Administration, together with Baharat. And this is a pretty interesting moment in the plot, when they go down to the stage where an old black-skinned wise man tells them to speak first and then fight. For both of them, there are signs and people who speak profound words, and provocative ones.
For prisoners of The Hole, Goreng becomes a prototype of Don Quixote, who did strange things called exploits and was criticized. What always exists in society when someone decides to change the world, even with the best intentions as there are always many people who will say, “You are a fool”.
The innocent child as a message
And probably the most powerful line in the plot correlates with the prototype of the child as a clear symbol of innocence, and the only thing that could save The Hole from evil and cruelty. To underscore the special quality of the story, the director shows children as the least protected people in the social strata and places a girl on the lowest level of The Hole. Moreover, when Goreng and Baharat arrive at stage 333, they notice that climate conditions such as warm or cold do not exist on this level. That means that children are not controlled by The Authorities, they play outside the rules. And another symbolic thing: at level 333 – the last and the most mysterious level – a child, who has been mentioned as being assigned to a rescue message, is hidden, as the last point in the life circle.
The Hole is a real-life abyss
The Hole is posed as a prototype of our life with all exceptions: religion, abuses, TV- zombies, faith, racism etc. And the hidden, transparent sense of the plot consists of the only thing that we block in the system by ourselves. Unlike the animals, we could save us from the lifespan abyss. Moreover, we have all sources to break the imposed perception. However, we live day by day like people in the Hole, waiting for someone, like Goreng, who would split the illusions of wellness. Complaining about invisible administrations, we used to wait for another portion of the meal, regardless of how many benefits we have.
Photo: Shutterstock / Photomontage: Martina Advaney
More reviews from the author:
All your donations will be used to pay the magazine’s journalists and to support the ongoing costs of maintaining the site.