The Platform; thoughts

As the whole world slowly self-isolates, more and more of us turn to our streaming services for a way to pass the time. Some look for hopeful, positive films to lift with their mood. As for the others, consider giving The Platform a go before another re-watch of Contagion.

This Spanish sci-fi horror takes place in a single location, a brutalist prison with a seemingly never-ending number of floors. Each floor represents one cell, each cell houses two inmates. Goreng (Ivan Massagué), our vehicle for this story, wakes up in a minimalist cell with a primitive sink and toilet setup, two beds and a huge number 47 on one wall. Its most defining feature, however, is a big hole right in the middle. The titular platform descends every day through this sole feeding source, stacked with enough food for everyone. Only it never makes it to the lowest levels.

Right from the beginning, The Platform is very clear about its symbolism and metaphors. Those above are the more privileged and get to eat as much as they can. Those below are happy if they can get their hands on some bones. It’s a class critique in the vein of Bong Joon Ho’s Snowpiercer, if inverted vertically, only here the story more often than not takes a back seat to the overarching theme of the film.

Soon after we grasp the most basic concept of the prison, we’re introduced to another twist. At the end of each month, the prisoners are randomly assigned to a different cell. Someone who could have been feasting at level 6 will now fight away starvation at level 170. With Goreng, we explore the (literal) ups and downs of this facility. Each floor presents a new twist on the core concept, keeping the film feeling fresh and engaging throughout.

The division of the film into chunks, each taking place on one floor, lends it an episodic feel that gives each twist or addition to the main thought time to settle in and explore it from multiple sides. However, it also makes The Platform lack a central scene, be it a big reveal or a unique scare, one that would be sealed into the memory of the audience. Sure, it has multiple great scenes all throughout, but looking back it’s hard to pinpoint a specific standout moment from it all.

While The Platform is technically a horror, don’t expect to get scared. It works in Lovecraftian ways, presenting many large, ominous mysteries, never fully comprehensible to the human mind. The concrete structure holds atmosphere as well as the inmates, with its relatable main character and eerie sense of danger making for surprisingly tense 94 minutes that go by in a flash.

What’s scary, and also scarily relevant, about The Platform is the showing of collective madness slowly taking over any trace of free will, rationale and leaving people at their most basic, fuelled by survival instinct and hunger.

Nearing its climax, the film decides to amp up the “horror-ness” of it all with multiple gory scenes that unfortunately do little more than simply entertain. After the one hour mark everything slowly starts to crumble and The Platform doesn’t manage to stick the landing. Most of the themes, as well as the excellently built up atmosphere are sacrificed for a largely unsatisfying ending that, more than anything else in the film’s runtime, leaves more questions than answers.

As an entertaining, but dark reflection of what the society is going through right now, The Platform feels oddly timely in more ways than one. And with everyone waiting for the next big streaming hit, the film is either bound to get overlooked or it will gain a massive following and still get called overlooked nonetheless.

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