The Platform: a salted assault on the senses
My broseph and I like to dabble in the odd thriller/horror film every now and then, but the current state of affairs has put those outings on a hiatus of sorts for the time being. A few days ago, he sent me a link to the trailer of The Platform, a new Spanish thriller/sci-fi/horror addition to the Netflix catalogue. Ten seconds into watching it, I was covered in goosebumps due to what I assumed was a story that was going to tap into my immense fear of heights (if you've seen the trailer, you'll know what I mean). However, it then started heading in a completely different direction and outlined a concept that is one of the most original I've heard in years. Naturally, I decided to subject myself to the whole film. Whoops.
Put simply, The Platform is about a vertical prison called The Hole (or 'El Hoyo' in Spanish, which is actually the original title of the film). The titular platform, covered in a gourmet banquet, descends daily through the large hole in the centre of each floor, on which two inmates are housed. They are given two minutes to eat their fill before it moves down to the next floor. If every prisoner only took enough food for their daily nutrients, there would be enough for everyone, but this wouldn't be a thriller if they did that. Is that not a ripper of a premise?!
(In the interest of not giving away more than is in the trailer, I'll leave it there, but needless to say there are a couple of very important catches to this system that kick it into overdrive.)
Up until this point, I would have said that the TV series Hannibal was the most viscerally grotesque thing I've ever seen, while still somehow managing to be the most visually beautiful production in history. While The Platform doesn't quite knock Hannibal off its perch, it's definitely next in line in terms of its portrayal of violence. I spent much of the first act with my hands over my mouth, which is a sure-fire way of knowing you've gotten to me. What another film might have left to the imagination, this one...well...doesn't. This film isn't scary, in the sense that there are no doors for anyone to jump out from behind, but the chills come from the implication that this is how some people would behave in these desperate circumstances. The scariest films are always the ones closest to real life (aside from the magical floating cement slab, of course).
If the film Parasite was a somewhat subtler allegory about class and privilege, The Platform tries to deal with the co-existence of The Haves vs The Have-Nots, but with all the grace and style of a rhinoceros in ballet shoes. Watching this film through the lens of our current reality, where many of us do not have access to some basic goods due to the actions of a relative few, was a really interesting experience; the filmmakers must be quietly smirking about how the timing of its release has worked in their favour.
As much as I enjoyed many facets of this film, I don't feel that it earned its conclusion. For every question it avoided answering, it posed another five. I certainly don't believe every story needs to be wrapped up in a pretty bow, but the potential emotional punch of the ending was somewhat deadened by the film's reluctance to give the narrative greater context.
This is not an easy watch by any means, so if you have any misgivings about whether or not you should give it a go, maybe spend your quarantine another way (in fact, I challenge you to make it through the trailer!). Having said that, it was wonderful to see a truly original idea fleshed out in such a way that panna cotta had such an important role, even if I felt it was missing the coulis.