(director: Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia; screenwriters: David Desola, Pedro Rivero; cinematographer: Jon D. Domínguez; editors: Haritz Zubillaga, Elena Ruiz; music: Aranzazu Calleja; cast: Iván Massagué (Goreng), Antonia San Juan (Imoguiri), Zorion Eguileor (Trimagasi), Emilio Buale (Baharat), Alexandra Masangkay (Miharu); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Carlos Juárez; Netflix; 2019-Spain-in Spanish with English subtitles)

“If it makes you nauseous, so be it.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The first feature film by Spain’s Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia is an accomplished nightmarish gulag-type of prison film about an indescribable prison. It has a resourceful story built around a social parable that reflects on how society operates. Writers David Desola and Pedro Rivero relish coming up with clever twists in its limited setting. They build a powerful story ripping into the failures of a trickle-down economy (advocated by Republicans) or the failed distribution of wealth throughout nations (favored in international circle), leaving no doubt how it’s in the nature of the wealthy to get more wealth rather than give the poor their fair share.

Most of the film takes place in a futuristic structure called “The Hole.” It’s a vertical prison with hundreds of floors, in which the inmates are placed in cells two at a time. Three times a day a platform with food for all the prisoners descends through a large hole in the middle of the building and stops for only two minutes at each cell, where there’s no rationing. The prisoners on level 1 are the first to be treated to a variety of special chef-created culinary dishes. If they eat only their share, there is enough for all the prisoners to be fed. But selfishness rules and by the time the platform makes it to the bottom floor, there’s no food left. The message is clearly a social one: if the haves didn’t take more than they needed, there would be enough for the have-nots.

The idealist Goreng (Iván Massagué), participating in a research project, volunteered to be in this unique prison to quit smoking and read a Don Quixote novel (each prisoner is allowed to have one possession), obviously not understanding what he volunteered for. At first Goreng is on level 48. There are usually some leftovers on the platform when it comes his way to his relatively high floor. But we soon learn that inmates change floors every month. So you could be relatively happy one day and on the next day you could be disappointed and have a cell further away from the food.

Goreng’s new cell roomie, when he changes to a lower floor, is the vulgar eating Trimagasi (Zorion Eguileor), someone who repels him. Trimagasi’s one possession is a kitchen knife. The everyman Goreng’s especially wary of his roomie when learning he survived his trip to the basement by devouring his cellmate.

By the final act, with the prisoners running things and anarchy prevailing, we head down to the basement (where the inmates can starve for a month) and things turn dehumanizing, cannibalistic, grisly and bloody. Horror fans can compare the atrocities to the Cube or Snowpiercer.

The thought-provoking Platform is a well-conceived and well-photographed film. It’s a stand-out risky unique genre film, one examining in its own odd and cynical way how society functions. It’s especially relevant today since the world now faces a deadly pandemic crises that alters the way we all live, but the same social order still is in place that caused such wide class gaps.

If it makes you nauseous, so be it.