I’ve just finished watching The Platform. It resonates to an uncomfortable level given the headlines we see now on a daily basis. I’m not going to be writing a spoiler-free review. Instead, I’m taking a closer look at the movie through the lens of the Covid-19 crisis.
What is The Platform about?
The Platform is a new Spanish language movie on Netflix. The story takes place in an interpretation of prison. This prison is a tower where each cell takes up one floor. Each floor is home to two prisoners. All they have is a bed each, a shared sink and toilet. They also have a gaping hole in the ceiling and a hole in the floor. Each month, the prisoners are gassed and moved with their cellmate to a new floor.
Each day, a platform passes through the hole in the ceiling and stops in the cell. For just a few moments, the prisoners have a chance to eat. How much food they get to eat relies largely on the floor they are situated on. Each month, how much food they get will vary dramatically.
The further down the chain you are, the less food. Eventually, the platform goes to floors where there isn’t even a scrap left for the prisoners.
Hidden and not so hidden meaning in movies
At last year’s Oscars, Parasite was the shock victor for many categories, including Best Picture. At its core, Parasite was a complex metaphor about South Korean class structure. The Platform isn’t as complex or subtle about its message.
The Platform passing through the cells carries with it enough food for everyone. However, overconsumption by those who can, those in the higher levels, means there’s less and less for those below. Some in the higher levels have past memories of having nothing, taking a platform with food as their opportunity to feast. And to feast, while it lasts.
This is a story of inequality and the problems of class structure, some of which is strikingly similar to that of Parasite. The main character attempts to plead with those in the cell below him, eventually threatening to defecate in the food on the platform if they do not start to ration food for the lower levels. However, he understands the limitation of his logic as he cannot “shit upwards”.
The eerie resonance of The Platform
It’s hard to not look at the world without the lens of Covid-19 right now.
Death from above
We live in a capitalist society. When I was younger, I always felt these “ist” titles were negative from learning about them in history. Really they’re just descriptive. Our capitalist society has struggled in recent weeks because of panic buying. When the opportunity presents itself, some people have shown that they will look after their own individual self rather than the collective well-being of the many.
Shelves in stores have been emptied, ravaged by over-consumption, disregarding the needs to those elsewhere who are likely more vulnerable. Watching the movie, it was impossible not to overlay today’s events onto the story. In many ways, other elements of the story are also eerily fitting. It’s a little creepy how good Netflix is getting as this timing of stuff given it was less than two months ago they released a documentary about pandemics.
Help from above
The Platform also tells us that help from above might not always be so reliable. Again, this is a hard realisation hitting many these days. China, the United Kingdom and the United States of America have all come under increasing criticism for how they’ve handled the Covid-19 crisis. Largely, and certainly, for the two latter powers, this is down to a privileged leadership with an apparent disregard for the lower classes.
Immigration and racism
Two recurring themes in The Platform also surround immigration and racism. As I’ve mentioned a few times, the movie doesn’t try to disguise the metaphors a whole lot. In one scene, a white man literally shits on a black man trying to claw his way up into a higher cell.
Another character describes why he was in prison. He threw his TV out of a window in a rage and it landed on an “illegal immigrant” who, in the words of the prisoner, “shouldn’t even have been there”. This is a common issue these days in Ireland and you only need to roam Twitter for a few minutes to see it. Because of our capitalist society where we pay taxes to our government, some don’t like the idea of immigrants taking a share, even when they’ve likely been running from a war-torn country or some other horrible type of persecution.
The frustration of The Platform on Netflix is the cycle. Everyone has enough information to protect each other. Everyone knows what needs to be done because everyone knows how horrible it can get at the bottom. Yet, the collective wellbeing takes a back seat as individualism takes precedence. People live in the now, looking after what we have right now instead of protecting the many over time.
In the movie, a child emerges as a beacon of hope. Not much is clear when the credits run, but this child was the one hope for the future. Personally, I took this to be a general message which could easily be turned into one of global warming and that while we all worry about the here and now, it’s the children we should be worried about.
I came to this conclusion as the men descend through the prison protecting a pannacotta dessert only to eventually give it to the child who they find at the very bottom of the prison. It turned out her mother was bringing food to her every day and helping her to survive.
Take away this learning from The Platform
As I said, it’s a fitting time for this movie to emerge. Every day now, we’re battered with examples of individualism taking priority for many over the wellbeing of the collective. Some empty shelves in shops leaving nothing for the elderly or emergency workers. Others continue to meet-up in large groups, disregarding the government’s pleas for social distancing to be practised. The Platform is a movie I absolutely recommend watching because it’s an eye-opener. I’m that weirdo who watched Contagion last week. In truth, the virus doesn’t scare me half as much as society does some times.
Look after yourself and look after each other.
If you need further information on Covid-19, please check out the World Health Organisation’s WhatsApp information service or visit the HSE website.