The Platform really did it for me back when I first saw the Midnight Madness selection for its big debut at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival. The Spanish horror thriller is a social allegory that’ll make you think twice about the world’s abysmal distribution of wealth, rampant selfishness and how challenging it can be to spark lasting change for the future. So yeah, a worthwhile message movie for just about any day of the week.
But The Platform has been on my mind quite a bit the last few weeks in particular and it isn’t just because the movie will finally be available to watch on Netflix on March 20th; it’s because it’s the cautionary tale we need during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The movie is a downright phenomenal feature directorial debut for Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia working from a script penned by David Desola and Pedro Rivero. It takes place in a facility called “The Hole,” a prison of sorts but one with a stacked vertical layout and two people assigned to each floor. Some of The Hole’s occupants committed crimes but then there are others like Ivan Massagué’s Goreng who agreed to spend six months in The Hole in exchange for an accredited diploma.
Once a day, the platform is made available to each floor. The first floor is served an untouched feast. There’s the sweet, the savory, protein, greens, cakes, wine – you name it. It’s a glorious sight for the two occupants on floor 1 – and probably the folks on the next few floors as well – but the thing is, the platform spread is never replenished. You’ve got a set amount of time to eat your fill and then it’s on to the next floor and the next floor and the next floor until there’s no more food left. And even then, there are still dozens of floors to go.
Hopefully, that description piqued your interest enough to catch The Platform on Netflix because from this point on, this article will be packed with plot spoilers.
Watching the folks stuck in The Hole ransack the platform when it arrives is deeply upsetting – and kind of nauseating, too. There’s absolutely no reason for one to walk on the table, spit on the remains, or take more than they need. The thing is though, everyone has an excuse and given the circumstances, there is some sense to that extreme behavior.
Each occupant of The Hole calls one particular floor home for exactly 30 days. After that time is up, a gas fills the room, knocks them out and they awake on a new floor. You could be on floor 6 one day and on 134 the next. So, let’s say you barely survive a month on floor 134 with no food and now have the opportunity to stuff your face on floor 6; how many do you think can hold back? And what about the individuals who know it’s their last day on floor 6 and might wake up on floor 134 the next? They better eat as much as they can now, right?
There are countless examples of people behaving as such in the real world but it’s been especially apparent the last few weeks with COVID-19 threatening the United States. (A worldwide pandemic yes, but as a Los Angeles and New York resident, I only have first-hand experience with the ridiculous behavior happening stateside.) It began with toilet paper, for whatever reason. Rather than head to the store and purchase a reasonable amount of 2-ply, extra soft, eco-friendly or whatever it is you prefer, we had shoppers loading up their carts with roll after roll. After that, the bottled water was gone (minus the Dasani) and countless other items.
Why did this happen? At first, I couldn’t quite make sense of it. We’re talking about a coronavirus; not something that’ll require an obscene amount of toilet paper to survive. But as the days went on, the fear did creep in. I didn’t go out and buy hundreds of bottles of water, but I became concerned enough to put a little extra of all the essentials in my cart. I didn’t go from five to 500 as far as toilet paper rolls go, but even the jump from five to ten offered a taste of what one can be driven to do when the fear of need creeps in. So while I do somewhat understand where the urge comes from, The Platform serves as a powerful reminder that, in the long run, you’re not helping anyone by doing that. Not even yourself. One occupant’s panic fuels another’s just like my urge to buy a little extra toilet paper was sparked by the hoarding happening around me.
As Antonia San Juan’s Imoguiri points out in the movie, there’s enough food to go around on that platform. All the residents of The Hole have to do is limit themselves to eating what they need to survive and then everyone will have enough. You know what would happen if we all bought what we need right now? More people out there will have access to essential items. Is it a guarantee that everyone will get what they need? For all I know there truly will be a limited supply of toilet paper or the toilet paper factories (is that where it’s made?) will shut down. But whether or not that’s the case, one thing remains true and it’s something that’s further enforced by The Platform; we all have a better shot if we work together.
Trimagasi (Zorion Eguileor) tries to eat Goreng, there’s the rope-climbing incident, violence and more attempts to ensure one’s longevity in The Hole. Perhaps those offenders get what they want in the moment, but that’ll only do so much good as they complete their sentence. Working together to create lasting change like Goreng and Baharat (Emilio Buale) do though? That could be a real game-changer.
But of course, it isn’t that easy with Goreng and Baharat experiencing another very relatable challenge; the folks who have more than you rarely listen to you. Or, in their case, no one on a floor above will listen to them. Change for the better can be possible if an individual on floor 36 only eats what he or she needs and creates an additional meal for someone on floor 100 in the process, but significant change requires the participation of the folks at the top. Fortunately, Goreng and Baharat meet on floor 6 and still have a good deal of food to spread around on their way down, but can you imagine how much more there would be if they started on floor 1?
The Platform is bleak and likely won’t leave you with a pep in your step, but if it encourages one to think twice before taking more than he or she needs or it decreases the amount of self-service at the expense of another, we’ll be better off. It’s true for the folks in The Hole and it’s true during this joint effort to put a stop to COVID-19, and beyond.