Going into Fantastic Fest, Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia’s The Platform (El hoyo) was easily one of my most anticipated. The film hailing from Spain recently won the Midnight Audience Award at TIFF, and with a curiously engaging premise I was excited to see the results given the buzz generated by the midnight Toronto crowd. To be honest I wasn’t simply surprised, I was floored, as I was treated to a film that, thanks to its shocking and cerebral nature, is sure to be a new genre standard.
The Platform is a thinly veiled metaphor for the depletion of our natural resources, taking place in a not too distant dystopian future. The setup is that the idealistic Goreng (Ivan Massagué) has volunteered to spend six months in a prison complex called “the pit” to hopefully quit smoking, get an accredited diploma, and read Don Quixote (this is the second film I’ve seen at the fest where they feature the book), but he’s unprepared for the reality he’s faced with upon his arrival. Food is distributed via a floating platform in the complex, which houses over two hundred levels, each housing two prisoners per level. It’s filled at level 0 with exquisitely cooked entrées and immaculate pastries and then descends level by level throughout the day with the following level feasting on the leftovers from above. The insidious is twist here your floor is randomly chosen and changes from month to month; also while enough food is set forth on the platform to sustain everyone at the beginning, the people at the higher levels tend to gorge themselves leaving nothing for those below.
Right off the bat our protagonist is set apart from his cellmate, because not only did he volunteer, but in a prison where you are also allowed to bring any one item with you, and most bring weapons, he brought a book. Gaztelu-Urrutia is very clear to establish a societal hierarchy in the prison with a particular emphasis put on a disdain for those above and beneath them. When Goreng inquires as to why this is the case, he’s simply told “because they’re beneath/above us!” As the film gets into the very literal dog eat dog of survival on the lower levels, because the platform is usually empty by the time it gets down there, the film’s chilling metaphor transforms into a dark call for action. While the film doesn’t shy away from the gore, it keeps its ideology pinned securely to its sleeve and is very careful not to get distracted from its message.
The Platform is an incendiary commentary on the state of affairs around the world with a similar cry to action as Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer. Coupled with its genre trappings, it makes for perfect viewing for the audience at Fantastic Fest with a crowd who can see beneath the crowd pleasing gore and violence for the film’s deeper metaphor. Personally, the harder the film dug in, the harder it began to hit, thanks to the film’s all or nothing sensibility and its great ensemble of characters led by Ivan Massagué. The Platform, awash in its nihilism, is still filled with hope, and for that it was easily one of my favorite films I’ve seen so far at the fest and a film you should seek out at all costs.