The Platform: Capitalist Critique
By Kearney Smith
The Platform (El Hoyo) is a 2019 horror film released in Spain by director Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia. the grisly film is set in a vertical prison known professionally as The Vertical Self Management Center but to the prisoners inside as The Pit. The film follows Goreng, a middle-aged man who wakes up in a bare cell with an unknown older man. From there we follow his journey through the daily hellscape of The Pit, as Goreng navigates through the injustices of food shortages and murder while coming to terms with his own horrific fate to help those in desperate need send a message to those in control. When Goreng enters the vertical prison, he does so by choice, on the simple idea of trading six months of his time for an accredited degree. His one chosen item is a book, Don Quixote, which he planned to spend his time reading. After entering the prison, he learns of the savage hell that hundreds of people endure each day as a platform full of lovingly prepared food that is supposed to feed them all, is emptied before even a quarter of the individuals can eat. Each month, prisoners awake on a new level, and depending on the number could either mean full bellies or the end of their adventure, the lower the floors the deeper the carnage; murder, starvation, and even cannibalism. The Platform allows viewers an unsubtle front-row seat to a gut-wrenching allegory for the failure of capitalism and is the perfect example of a creative and powerful critique of how modern power dynamics are shaped by capitalism.
The film’s analysis and depiction of the differences between the floors or classes of capitalism and how it functions in a broken society is one that is obvious and agreeable. There is a dirty sneak-peek into real-world relevance when it comes to the disdain that each prisoner holds for the individuals on the floors above and below them. Goreng’s original cellmate, Trimagasi, for example, is shown peeing on the floor below them when Goreng sought to deliver sympathy and pass along a message of rationing out the very limited quantity of food. The clear difference that The Platform discusses, is one that might draw disgust at the average viewer, unaware of the parallels to real-life situations in the disdain for those socially and economically below us and above. There is a clear hatred by Trimagasi for the thought of rationing out food, describing the kind act as communist ideals. Later on in the film, after Trimagasi’s demise, Goreng’s cellmate turns out to be the same woman who accepted him into The Pit. Imoguiri chose to enter into the prison out of choice, but even as a worker for the faceless company she had no idea of the horrors she was sending people towards.
The Platform shows the abuse of power throughout the entire film, in ways you may not even recognize the first time you view it. The faceless corporation referred to as ‘The Administration’ creates the vertical prison, approves individuals to enter, and oversees the constant horror. The administration is fully aware of the lack of rationable food on the platform but continuously introduces to potential prisoners the idea of “there’s enough for everyone if you just take what you need.” If a prisoner keeps a parcel of food after the platform leaves, the room begins to either rise or drop in temperature until the cellmates die or toss the food back. These scenes let the audience know that the administration in charge knows exactly what horrors are happening in this prison. The administration is not the only representation of power within The Platform. In The Pit, there are more floors than anyone even realizes. Later we learn that the floor count is three hundred and thirty-three, with food always running low by the sixtieth floor. With floor changes happening each month you’d think those who were once on a lower level now finding themselves higher up, would learn to share food wisely with those below after starving. Some individuals even have to resort to cannibalism to survive the month, however, when placed on an upper level they end up gorging themselves on the food they did not receive on the lower level, and thus a negative feedback loop is created.
Discrimination in the film The Platform is not always as clear as power or difference. The main discrimination is apparent against the level systems. Those on higher levels tend to be unwilling to help those below them. Trimagasi, the original cellmate, makes this fact well known and clear within the first 15 minutes of the film. Those above do not speak or give those below the time of day. Even as Goreng is angered by Trimagasi’s disrespect towards the cellmates below them, Trimagasi reminds him that they would do the exact same if they were above Goreng and Trimagasi. In Goreng’s last month he wakes up miraculously on level six after a nauseating month on level two hundred and twenty-three. His new cellmate after Imoguiri is named Baharat, who is desperate to escape this hell hole. Baharat’s chosen item appears to be a rope, and he shouts to the people above him to help him escape. The couple on level five surprisingly agrees and catches the rope thrown to help Baharat climb. However, as Baharat climbs, the female cellmate leans backward and promptly defecates in his face. The discrimination felt by the different floors is clear and one of the largest forms of discrimination despite all of the prisoners being in the same boat.
Although The Platform is a clear allegory to the obvious parallels of modern-day power structures formed by capitalism, there is another layer of The Platform that few discuss. Goreng’s chosen item is the book Don Quixote. It has been brought to attention that The Platform may have parallels to religion. The story of Don Quixote is of a man who draws his sword to defend people from the wickedness of the world, which I can see why there might be parallels to the book. The religious aspect comes from the idea that Goreng is the messiah, sent to change the path on which all of these prisoners exist. The floor systems end at level three hundred and thirty-three, and there being 2 people on each floor, means there are six hundred and sixty-six people trapped in The Pit. This is also the mark of the beast in a religious context. There are probably many connections to religion in this movie but not many of them have been confirmed, and don’t play into DPD language.
The beginning of the pandemic was hard for many, people were losing their jobs and there was a constant overwhelming fear of not being able to support your family through the rising crisis of COVID-19. There were food shortages and a series of people hoarding basic supplies. I chose this movie personally because I first discovered the movie at the start of the lockdown. It was the featured movie on Netflix the week after it all began. I was a minimum wage “essential worker”, and I could see the illusions of capitalism shattering right before my eyes. I had never really questioned it much until quarantine, I never thought about just how unjust our system was. The first time I watched The Platform, I felt a sense of understanding. The allegory of pitting people against each other when in reality we all want the exact same thing. To survive. To see another day and make it through the night. When the question of choosing a film was proposed, I knew The Platform would be a perfect fit.
In conclusion, The Platform isn’t a horror movie for everyone. It is grisly, and at times nauseating. However, looking at the travesty of modern-day power struggles created by capitalism is also nauseating. The Platform can be uncomfortable but to truly understand the everyday struggles of those around us, we at times need to be uncomfortable. Throughout the film, we see how a system that swears it’s built around helping others, pits everyone against each other in a struggle for survival. Resorting to nightmare tactics to stay alive to see another day. Whether you entered The Pit for an accredited degree or for the crime you committed, there’s no promise you will come out the same person. Walking through the examples of how power, difference, and discrimination exist in this gut-wrenching allegory shows us how similar The Pit is to our current ideals of the socioeconomic class systems here in America.
Tallerico, B. (2020, March). The Platform Movie Review & Film Summary (2020): Roger Ebert. A movie review & film summary (2020) | Roger Ebert. Retrieved February 18, 2022, from https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/the-platform-movie-review-2020