You can add Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia’s The Platform to the universe’s ever-growing list of directorial debuts that showcase anything but novice skill sets. As Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer and Ben Wheatley’s High-Rise so exquisitely pull the curtain back on humanity’s cruelest impulses, Urrutia embraces dystopian monstrosity through elementary necessities. Homo sapiens are courteous beings when benefits are personal and stakes are lowest, but thrust into survival desperation? Writers David Desola and Pedro Rivero obscure mealtime fulfillment with selfishness, vulgarity, brutality, and – most importantly – a suggestion that your neighbors would rip one’s heart out if it meant another day alive. Urrutia, fiercely, is an architect of horrific immorality with the calmest demeanor.
In an alternate future, everyman Goreng (Ivan Massagué) enrolls himself in a research project with vague descriptions. Isolation is promised, he’s allowed one item (a Don Quixote novel), and he’ll be sharing quarters with an unnamed companion. Upon conscious assessments, Goreng sees the drabbest opened cell with a bathroom area, rectangular center floor cutout, and his new roomie Trimagasi (Zorion Eguileor). Then a levitating slab hovers downward, presenting a half-eaten feast that Trimagasi starts devouring as Goreng watches, disgusted. Welcome to “The Platform,” an experiment in compassion that turns ugly as food is passed from the top-down however many floors. Those lucky enough gobbling far more than their needed rations out of “requirement.”
As allegory-based filmmaking tracks, The Platform is exemplary. Modernized gulag prison cells stack in infinite repetition, building a structural hierarchy that’s simplistic in meaning and identifiably effective. Be it the inefficiencies of a trickle-down economy or the failed distribution of wealth throughout nations, Urrutia’s visual storytelling is sharper than samurai-grade sushi cutlery. It’s one of those conceptualizations that’d make other creators green with envy, given the substantial commentary that’s tenderized into a lean, no-fat cut of Grade-A cynicism. A blackened crust, so to speak, yet still bleeding ruby-raw when halved like chop-house favorites or human bodies.
I opt for foodie wordplay because that’s the brilliance behind The Platform. Take a daily activity, three-times repeated, commonplace amongst most worldwide households – then wield it against civilization. Meals are a source of comfort for most; eating equated to sustenance and indulgence. Urrutia, vindictively, takes a mouthwatering spread of top-chef delectables and then mashes, macerates, and tears apart each dish like they’re Instagramable sacrifices. Culinary arts are no longer a soothing image, but now an instigator for malicious intent.
As the table descends from “level one” downward, Urrutia uses Goreng’s conscience to navigate the numerous atrocities at play. Those on top, benefitting from hot-out-the-oven pickings? Gluttons who piggishly scarf whatever they can based on availability. Those unluckily trapped in the basement levels? Driven to cannibalism, murder, and worse as bone-dry carcasses are all that’s left. Characters hopelessly suggest rationing methods, as enough dishes are provided to feed the entire complex should cooler heads prevail – but that’s what The Platform aims to expose. Fangs gnashing, tempers flaring. No mercy is granted despite inhabitants being moved floor to floor by “managers” we’ll call them. “Mine is mine” without sympathy becomes the motto, men and women no longer treating others as they’d desire pleasantries shown unto themselves.
Thus brings us to Goreng’s experience, which is our cinematic perspective. The sap who clutches paper pages and binding as his one “contraband” allowance whereas Trimagasi hugs his steel kitchen knife. Goreng abstains from digesting backwash “leftovers” as a mid-level commoner, but then his situation sinks deeper and direr. As hunger pangs louden, gristle scraps become more appetizing. When dropped to a bottom level, Trimagasi confesses the tasty fate of his previous cellmate since someone’s gotta eat. When granted positioning towards the top, Goreng scoffs at Imoguiri’s (Antonia San Juan) polite attempts to pass down a “rations only” menu telephone-style. Inmates are given full run of the proverbial asylum, and anarchy is the only rule. Urrutia doesn’t shy from the dehumanizing results you’d expect.
Better yet, The Platform is fu**ing ruthless. Excuse my language, but the barbaric treatment of edible perfection is only the first course in terms of disturbing contextual punishments. Characters accept their fates when hope seems glib by splatting, hanging, flaying – anything that’ll make your skin squirm. Urrutia begs you to stomach every decision, each raw cut of festering, maggot-ridden flesh, to the point where primality devolves “participants” to a level of bloodsoaked injustice. Life outside enclosed walls ceases to exist, only “The Platform” left as a cyclical altar to be worshipped as their new God. Utter craziness? Undoubtedly. A unique and daunting catalyst for a sickening brand of societal breakdown? Mesmeric, frankly.
The Platform may layer decadent buttercream frosting atop moist, sumptuous spice cakes, but this is not a sugar-coated presentation of man’s better intentions. Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia aims to rally the troops, tired of being shit on for too long (direct metaphor). Aggression and angst are elevated as communal wellness dissolves under sizzling red-light color filtration, and yet, there’s positivity to clutch before the credits roll. Yes, the movie about decapitations and nuclear class warfare and starving future murders *still* retains a glimmer of hope to be acknowledged. Who says you can’t have it all these days?
The Platform is a multi-tiered assembly of tension, terror and terrible imaginings that, in cake form, would be worth centerpiece window placement in any professional pâtisserie.