Stories about isolation are hitting close to home, now more than ever. And few are as simultaneously simple and bleak as Netflix’s The Platform. Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia’s dystopian thriller from Spain explores themes of isolation, inequality, and the desperation people will go to in times of crisis.
Worst Prison on Earth
After volunteering in exchange for compensation, Goreng (Ivan Massagué) wakes up in the concrete prison known as The Pit. Inside, he and a cellmate are only fed once a day by a platform which lowers to each level, containing less food as it goes down.
Those at the top feast like kings, while those at the bottom are left with scraps, if they are lucky enough to be left anything at all. They are allowed one personal item (Goreng chooses his copy of Cervantes’ “Don Quixote”), and each month, they wake up in a different level.
After Goreng experiences the luxury that is level 6, and the bleak desperation that is level 201, he realizes that if everyone merely rations, everyone can be fed. But convincing people to do this is not easy, nor is staying at the top for very long.
Selfishness vs. Desperation
In the film’s not so subtle metaphor, it explores the conflict between people wanting to help others in need, versus satisfying their own self-interest. One the one hand, there people like Goreng who want to share, because they know what it’s like to be on the bottom.
But there are others who as soon as they move up, refuse to share because they’ve been “saved”. However, in The Pit, it’s just as easy to fall many levels as it is to rise. And while the metaphor is kind of obvious, because it’s set in a fictional, dystopian world, it feels a bit more natural and nuanced.
Spoilers Ahead – You’ve Been Warned!!!
Anticlimactic But Fitting
Eventually, Goreng and his new cellmate ride the platform down, level by level, encourage people to ration the food so that there is enough. But as they descend (and encounter hostility throughout), they discover there are far more levels than they thought.
Finally reaching level 333, they find a child, despite the fact that children weren’t supposed to be in there. This likely represents that the innocent victims of vast inequality are children who were merely born into it. The film points out that inequality definitely exists, but also isn’t preachy enough to propose a specific solution.
In fact, its conclusion is quite bleak and in line with real life. It becomes all the more fitting that Goreng’s chosen item was a copy of “Don Quixote” as that too was about an ordinary character who believed that anyone could be a knight, anyone could be special.
Overall, The Platform is a bleak, though-provoking film, whose sense of isolation provides the perfect catharsis for the mass quarantine we are all experiencing right now!
The Platform is streaming exclusively on Netflix.