Spanish dystopian sci-fi horror/thriller film The Platform has remained one of the most popular movies on Netflix in the week since its debut, and with it being a non-English language allegory denouncing capitalist greed with a highly symbolic and head-scratcher of an ending, that’s quite an achievement.
The film is set entirely within the walls of a vertical prison with scores and scores of levels linked by an unending shaft. Once a day a platform laden with food is lowered, stopping briefly at each level to allow its pair of prisoners to eat before it moves on. There is ostensibly enough if everyone only consumes what they need, but those higher up gorge themselves, condemning those lower down to starvation and cannibalism.
The setup acts as a metaphor for society, where people at the top can take as much as they want and be unaffected, while those below them have to make do with whatever scraps those above deign to leave for them. Like a Kafkaesque interpretation of a Samuel Beckett play, the metaphor is about as subtle as South Park, but makes its point well.
Each month prisoners are relocated to a new level seemingly at random, and after some time the main character Goreng finds himself at the lofty position of level 6. He and his current companion decide to ride the platform down to the very bottom to guard the food and ensure everyone gets something to eat, while also preserving a panna cotta to send back up as a message that the prisoners reject the system into which they have been placed.
Far down in the pit they discover a small child, the previously believed imaginary daughter of a serial killing madwoman who regularly descends on the platform in search of her. Instead of returning the dessert to the top, Goreng sends up the child as an example that people with nothing can still protect one another instead of taking all that the others have.
He then remains behind, as even though he began as an inherently good person, he became corrupted by the evil of the system and can no longer return from being an active participant in its injustices. The child, meanwhile, remains pure and innocent, and in being elevated by the suffering of the older generation, is afforded the potential to change things instead of being expected to pay for their mistakes.
The Platform is reminiscent of other high concept yet simply executed films such as Cube, Circle or Exam, and a movie appropriate for our uncertain times where the stark inequality in which we exist is more apparent than ever, but also a much-needed reminder that however bleak a situation might feel, there is always a glimmer of hope.