Fantastic Fest Review: THE PLATFORM Goes Levels Above

This Spanish sci-fi allegory is both sharp and appropriately blunt.

The Platform is my favorite kind of genre film: one that presents a completely fantastical idea, grounds it with a kind of internal logic, and then propels that idea to its psychological and emotional extremes. The Platform does this all while making an anti-capitalist, humanist point, and not through sociopolitical monologues, either (although those do play a factor), but through escalating set-pieces, an abrasive sense of humor, and a diverse set of characters who evoke the various stages of grief.

The Platform is largely a parable about The Pit: a prison facility made of hundreds of two-person cells, stacked on each other in a single column. The cells have no windows or doors; their only visible entry points are the two wide openings in the ceiling and floor, which give each prisoner a view of the cells directly above and below them. Every day a large platform hovers down through the openings, carrying a feast’s worth of food. Every prisoner gets a turn to eat from the platform, but only after all the prisoners on the floors above them have had a turn first. Obviously, the prisoners in The Pit’s lowest floors rarely get any food from the platform. At the end of each month, the surviving prisoners are gassed to sleep and moved to a random new floor.

Our protagonist is Goreng (Ivan Massagué), an intellectual who wakes up on the 48th floor of The Pit. He finds conditions within The Pit to be inhumane and insufferable, but his cellmate Trimagasi (Zorion Eguileor) feels that criticizing things is a waste of energy. As a veteran of The Pit, Trimagasi has seen everything from prisoners on the higher floors committing suicide because of boredom to prisoners on the lower floors resorting to cannibalism to survive. He’s coped by convincing himself that no one else’s suffering matters but his own, and that solipsism seems to be the dominant mode of thought among prisoners in The Pit.

Ever the knight errant, Goreng refuses to lose his mind to The Pit the same way Trimagasi has. But Goreng will also have to face a few other characters who will threaten to make him lose his mind in different ways.

Since the first half of the film is made of two people talking in a room, The Platform brings to bear some stellar dialogue and performances to keep you on your toes. Eguileor is a darkly comic scene-stealer as Trimagasi, spewing nihilistic barbs while oozing a childlike lack of inhibition. Massagué’s Goreng is great too, going through several transformations as he struggles not to compromise his morals. If there’s one downside to The Platform’s cast, it’s that we don’t get to see enough of them, but that’s only because the film knows how to follow its “use only what you need” philosophy.

Is The Platform on-the-nose? Sure, but only because it has to be. Our planet is being killed by billionaires and an alarming amount of people are fine with it because they’d rather die (and condemn their children and grandchildren to death) than admit that billionaires shouldn’t exist. Snowpiercer (another confined dystopian sci-fi with proto-socialist aims) has become an obvious point of comparison, but I think The Platform is less a derivative and more of a companion to that film. The emphasis the film places on the volatility of The Pit—the fact that anyone on the higher floors can end up on the lower floors overnight and vice versa—is a sharp contrast to the efficient, resilient caste system of the Snowpiercer. The fact that both institutions are ultimately resistant to change is the dark joke at the heart of The Platform.

More than any one sociopolitical statement, The Platform wants to ask why it’s so hard for people to care for others when they know they will be in need next. The conclusion it seems to come to is: grief. Grief pervades every aspect these characters’ dysfunction, and the constant pain of grief is how the prisoners of The Pit allow pain to multiply. But the future is not something to be grieved, The Platform argues in its final shot, and after seeing the desperate alternatives, I’m inclined to agree.