By Annie Yang
The 2019 Spanish film, El Hoyo, or also known as The Platform is a dystopian thriller/sci-fi and social satire directed by Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia. The film is set in an endless, multi-level prison called the “Vertical Self-Management Center” by the bureaucratic workers manning it or referred to as “The Pit” by the people living in there. Inhabitants on each floor are paired and forced to live with one other, while randomly changing floors every month. Each person is there for a certain reason (prisoners or volunteers), for a certain amount of time, and with no way to escape.
There are beds and food provided, with an extravagant meal fit for an army prepared on the daily, and brought down by a platform that goes through the middle of the rooms and through the whole building. The only catch? The ones on the higher levels get first pick and the ones on the lower levels are left with the scraps. And each floor only has two minutes to eat from the platform.
Despite the limited setting brought forth by its own design (with only one place and few characters), this setting prepares the film in a more forceful and thought-provoking manner. By providing critiques on various ideologies (e.g. capitalism), class inequality and economics, it also includes enough tension, absurdity, and shocking scenes throughout to keep viewers engaged and interested.
The main character, Goreng, is a volunteer that chooses to stay in the prison for six months in exchange for a diploma. When he discovers the cruel workings and violence of the prison, he tries to fight for those on the lower levels with morals—”if the higher floors only ate what they needed, then those below would have enough food as well”. Which lands him as being labelled a communist by his cellmate, Trimagasi, who tries to teach him the ways of survival in this dark place.
And that is the social dilemma of the whole film. You would think after experiencing the horrors of the lower levels, those lucky enough to end up on the higher levels would be sympathetic and leave food for them, but rather, they take even more (as if to make up for the starvation they endured). The contradiction here is that they were the same people that complained about being left with nothing, and are now doing the same thing. As portrayed by this film, the individual will never take the blame for any wrong or unlucky situation, as it’s the fault of those above and below for taking too much or expecting too much.
The cinematography adds a disturbing yet captivating angle to the story with all the gore, and viewers can’t help but feel grossed out by the most basic human functions. Paired with the visuals, is the soundtrack that amps up the disgust and horror of the film even more, where sick body music is heard whenever food is eaten, even before humans are put on the menu. Despite the vileness of every basic function and scene shot in the film, it is undeniably raw, grotesque, and so realistic that viewers can’t help but keep watching.
The Platform draws comparisons to other films like Parasite and Snowpiercer by Bong Joon-ho as there is a visible hierarchy portrayed in these contemporary films, where a hidden, often-dark world is kept a secret and apart from the world we live in. Literally or not. In fact, what about our own prisons today?
Nonetheless, out of all of these, The Platform is still by far the most exaggerated and graphic of them. And the most political, as it throws in different ideologies of Marxism, capitalism, and socialism as possible solutions to the problem it presents.
All in all, The Platform takes on problems of society in a gruesome way, and on problems that are much harder and take longer to solve. It exaggerates in order to captivate while amplifying certain forces in our own social and political reality. Into something that is so distinctly disturbing yet almost familiar in a way. Through the film, it makes viewers realize that change takes a long time to happen, and any change must start with the individual first and then society.