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article imageReview: TIFF 2019: ‘The Platform’ is a feast of deprivation Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Sep 16, 2019 in Entertainment
‘The Platform’ unfolds in a vertically-stacked prison in which food only reaches the top tiers, creating a vicious atmosphere that infects its inmates.
Trickle down systems are a hierarchal structure in which something — typically information and/or money — begins at the top and is passed through to the bottom, usually reaching its final destination in a vastly reduced state, if at all. Obviously, those above a certain threshold benefit from this arrangement, while those below are keenly aware of its negatives. The goal, of course, is to climb above the line and be one of the advantageous, which can create a cutthroat environment and a by-any-mean-necessary mentality. The Platform takes this construction, but applies it to a month’s food supply in a dystopian future.
Goreng (Ivan Massagué) wakes up in a concrete room wrapped around a large, rectangular hole in the floor. His only possession is the book he brought as his one permitted item. His roommate is older, serving a lengthy murder sentence — he opted to bring a kitchen knife. When the siren sounds, everyone prepares for the table’s descent. Starting at the top, a gourmet, five-star feast is laid out for the inmates. It briefly stops at every level, allowing the occupants to gorge themselves on as much as possible before the table moves to the next floor. The lower the level, the less food that makes it to them until there’s nothing at all below a certain point. At the start of each month, the inmates are shuffled and forced to live on a different level, which may be higher or lower than the month before.
Goreng doesn’t really seem to know what he signed up for when he volunteered to enter “The Pit” for six months. As his roommate tries to show him the ropes, he rejects the savage ritual of eating scraps from above and cannot believe people would let those below them starve. Self-preservation and fear are the most prominent emotions in the vertically stacked prison, leading to murder, suicide, cannibalism and other forms of violence. Pleas to civilize the process and save food for the hundreds of lower levels are met with derision and ignored. A combination of survival of the fittest and luck of the draw, incarceration ruled by barbarism turns even a passivist like Goreng into a brute.
The administration is a faceless entity that keeps even its employees in the dark about the specifics of its social experiment. In the meantime, an unknown number of people are murdered each month by forced starvation or “other,” which is certainly a creative means of controlling the prison population. What’s most curious is the care taken in preparing the daily feast as a meticulous chef inspects each dish before it reaches the table and derides his staff for any mistakes. Conversely, the inmates barely acknowledge what they’re eating before ravenously attacking the painstakingly prepared spread.
This commentary on the trickle-down construct is not subtle, but it is effective. The metaphor is visceral and gripping as it uses a concept everyone can relate to: hunger. The set design, while in some ways simple, is also the key to making this abstract idea concrete for audiences. Combined with the explicit script and excellent acting, this is not a movie viewers will quickly forget.
The Platform had its world premiere in the Midnight Madness category at the Toronto International Film Festival. The film also won the Grolsch People’s Choice Award for the programme. Don’t miss the rest of our TIFF 2019 coverage.
Director: Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia
Starring: Ivan Massagué, Antonia San Juan and Emilio Buale
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