The Platform (2019)

There’s some overlap between The Platform and films like Cube: Our protagonist is dropped into a hellish setting from which they’re unable to escape. Not only do they have to figure out the rules for their new environment, but also have to go to some extremes to survive. But Platform’s unique take and specific subtext make it stand out among the others.

The food distribution in this movie is a literal depiction of trickle down economics, a direct critique of the way societies “distribute” wealth & resources within the capitalist framework.  But I think it’s interesting that the filmmakers show that there are not enough resources to go around. When Goreng and Baharat travel down on the platform, there’s no food left even by the time they get to the 200s, and they make it all the way down to level 333. Accordingly, the film is not only critical about the fact that people won’t take just what they need and share the wealth, but also that what they’re starting with (the lavish and resource-expensive meals) is itself unsustainable. The escargot, for example, are carefully prepared and we see all the time that goes into making about 8 servings, none of which can possibly be very calorically dense.

The solution to the problem of hunger in the hole doesn’t start with level 1, it starts at level 0 and beyond, where the food is prepared. It starts with the gathering of ingredients. Making everyone’s favorite meal every day isn’t sustainable.

One of the primary faults with the film is its heavy-handedness. It’s pretty hard to miss that they’re criticizing capitalism and planned scarcity of resources. As mentioned, Goreng has decided to come here voluntarily, in exchange for his diploma. This idea of suffering in order for the chance of future “betterment” is the essence of ThE aMeRiCaN DrEaM. Work hard now, play later. Suffer and achieve. This film just makes the suffering more literal and extreme.

Trimagasi insists on treating the people below badly and assuming the people above won’t listen or respond, and acts accordingly to reinforce this idea. Eventually Goreng also starts acting this way. Everyone is the enemy, the people above you and the people below you, and indeed the person right there with you. The structure of the system (the hole) denies anyone the ability to be trusting and empathetic, much like the structure of capitalism.

But then, there are also some criticisms levied against socialism. These are portrayed in the film mostly by way of Imogiri and her unwavering belief that there’s enough to go around (which we know there isn’t) and that if people just ate what they needed everyone could eat. She and the reluctant Goreng only manage to convince the people on level 34 to eat just their share by threatening to shit on the food.

Goreng (and the film) mock the idea of spontaneous solidarity, noting that they only did what they were told because of a threat. This view of socialism is pretty standard for capitalists: socialism is the government taking by force and redistributing, while keeping the largest portion for themselves. But, this critique of socialism can be more or less dismissed. It’s not reasonable to expect people to live outside of the system they are trapped in. Without abolishing capitalism, we can’t actually experience a more communal and less antagonistic relationship with our peers.

I also find it interesting that people are eating, contaminating or otherwise wasting the favorite meals of everyone below them. Imagine being on level 2 and hoping to get your favorite meal because of your level, only to find that the people on level 1 also like that. This makes me think of those reality TV shows where we are given glimpses of the lifestyles of the rich and famous. There’s always some drama and they’re always upset or complaining about some aspect of their lives. Meanwhile, we all sit here wishing for a minute we could live with such comfort.

Goreng, the “messiah”

So there’s one thing about it, but there really is a lot packed into this just over 90 minute long movie. Another piece of it is this idea of a messiah. The Jesus parallel is there obvio, but I wonder, given the movie’s critiques of capitalism, if this is meant to represent some sort of revolutionary. Is Goreng meant to be a representation of Fred Hampton or Che Guevara or some other figure in anti-capitalist history who was ultimately destroyed by the system they struggled against?

As the messenger dies, the message carries on, and it potentially affects real world change.

I imagine that the people in the kitchen don’t realize exactly how horrible the system they’re keeping afloat truly is. Sending this child up would give them a tip. We can hope that many will quit, having seen the child. Like “The Ones Who Walked Away from Omelas,” they will recognize the role they play and refuse to any more. Although maybe that’s a bit too optimistic given the tone of the film.

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