“The Panna Cotta is the message.” A platform filled with food descends down an unending tower of cell blocks. Each floor is occupied by two people who will graze on their share of the food. The people on the top get the most food. The people below get their leftovers, and their leftovers go to the people below them. This goes on and on until some people do not get any food. The Platform arrives as a bold allegory about the nature of class consciousness. It critiques the nature of our access to shared resources. Someone always gets too much and someone else too little.
Goreng (Ivan Massagué) has volunteered himself to the program, seeking upward mobility upon completion. Every prisoner gets one personal belonging and he brings Cervante’s Don Quixote. There is nothing Quixotic about his plight, but it informs the sturdy literary nature of his character. His fellow inmate is imprisoned for dropping a tv out of his window and killing a man. He has brought a knife he saw advertised on TV which made him throw it out the window. They suffer immediate philosophical differences. While Goreng would like to sort out an even share among all levels, his new friend does not believe the upper-class will ever endorse this form of Communism.
The Platform works on the wavelength of this sort of speculative fiction. The hollowed-out tower with the food platform works as a meaningful allegory for class problems. It examines and criticizes inhabitants based on their behaviors. We receive meaningful psychological insight about each person through their methods of rationing foods. When a woman rides the dumbwaiter down and reveals she’s had a child in the tower, it causes torment for our lead, who is now radicalized by the nature of his environment and wants to control the system.
We find out what motivates characters by how they treat their neighbors. They can all peak up or down the hole in the center of their captivity and see how the other classes are living. They beg for portion control. Or piss down the well. Everyone has a different strategy to it. Enough portions for everyone are initially put on the tray but are devoured by the thirtieth floor out of a couple hundred. It seems to want to tell us something about the 1% — as our lead loves to say, “obviously.”
It’s gut-wrenching stuff, informed by elements of horror and satire in equal measure. There is some particularly nasty cannibalism featured, as the lower class are left to kill and eat each other. By enforcing bold limits on the structure of the storytelling, the tower is given symbolic prescience and is allowed to mean whatever the story needs it to at the time. As roommates shift, so do priorities, and we begin to see the functional restraints of the story. It is not totally clear what the administration’s own goals are in this captivity. We have to believe they only stand as a broad metaphor for folks in power, for it to mean something at all.
Shot in stunning simplicity, The Platform recalls a clear set of influences, chiefly situated between Cube (1997) and Snowpiercer (2013). While vaguely derivative of these sources it wears the influences well and matches a minimal brutalist environment with social class commentary. From first-time director Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia, it levels astounding layers of detail onto a premise that holds up under the weight of such grandiose thinking. The Platform is a remarkable debut feature film with great social value at this year’s Fantastic Fest. “The girl is the message.”