This 2020 Netflix film takes us on a socioeconomic ride to the future of prison cells constructed as vertical rooms that allow inmates to watch each other in lower cells, while the inmates above get first dibs on the food served by chefs at the top of the building… Yeah, I know it sounds a bit strange and maybe even eccentric but don’t judge a film by its’ trailer (see below). It’s much worse than it sounds.
The principle of The Platform is that there are a variety of awful people that exists no matter what social status level you are on in this world. However, this principle of the film brings us to the question of who are the absolute worst: the people at the top or the people at the bottom?
The movie begins with an experimental, science fiction tone. From this, we can expect that there will be a series of unexplained and confusing events throughout the film. We are introduced to our first cell mates: Goreng (young man with facial hair) and Trimagasi (older man without facial hair). Food is lowered on a platform day to day from top to bottom of the cell tower. The rules are clear that you must eat what you can while the platform is stopped on your level. What happens if you take food “to go”? When The Platform leaves your level, you are not allowed to take food from the buffet displayed before you. If you do, the temperature will change in your cell to extreme hot or extreme cold, making it an uncomfortable living space for you and your cellmate. The inmates are likely to die in the extreme conditions as punishment for their greed and disobedience. It is important to understand the principles that The Platform is trying to teach — do not take more than what you need, do not waste, cease the moment, make the most of an opportunity in the time given, etc.
The rules on timed eating and taking food are the perfect illustration for how Western culture/American society views economics. According to the theory and application of Reaganomics, we know that wealth distribution is unequally spread through a hierarchy channel from the very wealthy who watch and control from the top to the very poor who sit and wallow away at the bottom. In this theory, we see how the very poor rarely have access to any of the resources that exists for people who are very wealthy. In application, we see the inmates who live in the cells at the top of the tower throw, play and have fun with their food, while the people in the middle may or may not get food depending on how high or low they are in the middle and then as for the people at the bottom — by the time The Platform reaches them, there is nothing leftover. They end up fighting each other, just for survival. Whoever lives becomes a cannibal.
The Characters & their encounters
This film does a great job of displaying the types of people you meet in life and the characteristics they embody that would cause them to be placed in various spots of The Platform (the top, the middle and the bottom i.e. “the fallen”). What kind of survival skills and tactics do these people have that keep them alive? Is it their charisma? Their violent actions? Their dog? What motivates these people to take action to get to the top or go to the bottom? Which way is out — if there even is a way out?
Goreng and Trigamasi: these are the first set of characters that we meet and they seem to have the longest time together as cell mates. We see their relationship develop the most. At first, Goreng doesn’t know the significance of following the rules in order to survive, he doesn’t like eating leftovers from other people, he brought a book with him as his one item allowed, and he does a good job of maintaining his hygiene. Trimagasi is an older man who already feels like he has mastered the game and has no interests in changing anything. He eats, he sleeps, he lives another day. As time goes on, they learn more about each other and realize that they’re very different people. Trimagasi is definitely the more irrational or the two. He even ties Goreng to a bedframe and starts cutting pieces of his flesh for consumption. Guess they didn’t get along as well as we thought…
Goreng and Imoguiri: After Goreng kills Trigamasi, he is switched to another cell on another level. His new roommate is a woman named Imoguiri. She is the only character that we see who brought a living creature with them as their one allowed item, her dog. At this point in the film, we’ve heard rumors about the woman who uses The Platform to travel from one level to the next every few days that say she has a child who is lost on one of the levels. This gives us reason to believe that there may be some truth to that rumor after all. However, we still don’t understand why Miharu has such a thrill for killing. She even killed Imoguiri’s dog when she visits their level… On the surface, it seems that Miharu was going to eat the dog as she had become accustom to harvesting fresh kills in order to survive. So, the dog could have been an easy target to snack on. However, we could also note that Imoguiri used to be the one who interviewed people for admittance into the tower facility and Miharu could have killed the dog out of revenge because she’s stuck there with her child.
Goreng and Baharat: this is the third and final cellmate that Goreng is paired with in the film. Goreng wakes up to Baharat bargaining and negotiating a deal with the inmates in the cell above them to help him climb the levels using the rope that he brought with him. He throws the rope up and begins climbing up to the next level when the female inmate above pulls down her pants and literally takes a dump (shit, poop, etc.) on his face. Baharat lets go of the rope and lands on the edge of his cell, almost collapsing to the levels below, to “The Pit” when Goreng grabs him and pulls him to safety. Goreng convinces Baharat that instead of trying to go up, why not try going down? Baharat hesitates to give him a straight answer. It is a known fact that the lower you go in levels, the more dangerous it gets. People at the bottom are fighting for their lives so they tend to kill their new cellmates and any unexpected visitors for their flesh is just food.
Goreng and Miharu: we’ve talked about Miharu already. She is the woman whose child is lost on a tower level moving from one level to the next without any protection or guidance. Miharu is the strongest, most feared character in this film. We see her kill several human beings and even a dog. She is not one to be fucked with, i.e. she’s a mother on a mission. As Goreng and Baharat journey on The Platform through the levels on the way to the bottom, they encounter Miharu in danger.
When Goreng and Bharat reach the lowest level of The Platform tower and they find a young girl hiding under the bed. She looks just like Miharu. The rumors have come alive and the truth is set free, Miharu had a daughter. She wasn’t looking for her daughter, she was looking for a way out so she could save her daughter. Miharu thought the same way Bharat did, that if you make it to the top, there’s a way out. However, the ending scene reveals that staying on The Platform as it goes all the way down to “The Pit”, an empty dark space underneath all the cell rooms and levels, that there is an actual way out.
The Platform is a beautifully written metaphor for capitalism and the class system. The film starts with a banquet of food that descends from above on a moving platform along with unwritten rules that have consequences. The higher tier inmates eat first, while the inmates below them are left fighting for scraps, representing the literal socioeconomic chain of resource distribution (i.e. capitalism). The most ironic part of this metaphor is that The Platform has more than enough food to satisfy all the prisoners if they only took what they needed and nothing more. However, just like our capitalistic society, those at the top (the wealthy) overconsume, and are given no incentive or reason to want to share, leading to inequality, pain and suffering for all the lower levels.