Borrowing from J.G. Ballard’s metaphorical scaffolding — as outlined in the author’s social-horror novel, High-Rise (and its mismanaged film adaptation) — Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia’s conceptually similar, subgenred mash-up The Platform opts for a literalized actualization of the failures of benevolence. The Pit exists somewhere between a manifestation of trickle-down theory and a vertical recreation of Rome; it’s a facility in which two people live per level, and a square void in the middle allowing for daily meals to travel on a platform from top to bottom, stopping for a brief, determinate amount of time at each floor so that the pairs can quickly gorge. Here, food is capital, and The Platform opens with the meticulous and orante orchestrations of what appears to be a high-end kitchen, inside which refined and garish dishes are labored over and garnished, all under the guidance of a demanding head chef. And yet, we soon find that this colorful feast is sent into the drab gray of concrete below. The top floor have dibs, then, and each subsequent floor must settle for rifling through diminishing leftovers (and sometimes the excrement deposited onto the tabletop). Your level also changes every month, meaning status is fleeting and arbitrary. That the nature of privilege in The Pit is random does not change the entitlement felt and cruelty exhibited by those at the top.
So yeah, not much subtlety going on here. And that’s okay, for much of this film anyway. This satiristic class critique doesn’t necessitate much, and Gaztelu-Urrutia compensates for whatever nuance his film lacks by imbuing The Platform with an assured aesthetic character and some smarmy charm. The film’s cold open brings us to feeding time quickly, quick cuts and a lurid sound design capture the smackings and slurpings of gluttonous prisoners (and volunteers, though this is barely explained) —all of this set to a clock tick-sounding score that falls somewhere between jaunty circus noises and music box propulsivity. Additionally, the character of Trimagasi makes for a slimy, Charon-like figure, and lends the film’s early proceedings a campy grotesquerie. But as the effortful stylizations and menacing tone give way to plot machinations and some nonsense about innocence, or perhaps even hints of generational morality, most of the puckish and brutal fun, like so many falling bodies, slips into the void.
You can currently stream Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia’s The Platform on Netflix.
Published as part of Toronto International Film Festival 2019 | Dispatch 4.