“The Platform” or as it is originally titled “El Hoyo” is a multi-genre Spanish film about the human condition. It is painful to watch because one can see reflections of the characters in our daily life. The film does not take mercy on us and starts without explanation following a chef supervising a grand meal with care. We are oblivious to the significance of the actions and left to wonder what is to come. But at no point does anything feel forced.
Slowly, we are introduced to the protagonist of the story, Goreng, played by the delightful Iván Massagué. We don’t know who he is or where he comes from or even the place he opened his eyes at. The only other character, Trimagasi does not assist us either. It is a strange world that he has reached where he is imprisoned on the 48th floor of a building for a short period to secure a diploma. What we eventually find out is that it is a carefully constructed social experiment that people either voluntarily or involuntarily sign up for. And soon after, we find that neither this place nor any of the people habituating it take mercy on anyone.
This film is a hard look at the world as it exists and has since the beginning. Goreng is that idealistic hero whom we all strive to be always crusading to bring about a change and getting short-changed instead. But he is not without his own level of skepticism and pragmaticism. He quickly learns that “it is a doggy, dog world” when Trimagasi tries to feast upon his flesh in lieu of the few fluids available. He has his own demons to carry as he ends up committing murder and cannibalizing on the flesh of few.
Then we have the true believers who are relatively untouched by acts of evil. There’s the soft Imoguiri (played by the lovely Antonia San Juan) whose kindness and fortitude are tarnished by the place. She is an ex-government official who oversaw the selection process for entry into the place. She chose to reside there in the last part of her life to bring about some sort of social order. Her dog is her priced possession which is murdered brutally by Miharu, a resident assassin who wants to keep her child safe. Imoguiri has a naivete about her that you want to dislike but is so pure that you can’t. We see her meet a terrible fate as she commits suicide to facilitate the growth and power of Goreng.
The other believer is Baharat. Played by the magnetic Eric L. Goode, he is the only character with no hidden agenda than to get out of the place. When we meet him, he has been supported by a lot of good people and is super trusting. We see the people on the floor above him shit in his face literally as he hangs from a rope in an attempt to get up. He quickly subscribes to the idea of implementing social order and serve as Goreng’s champion. They journey through floors threatening and murdering people in order to ration the food so that everybody has plenty. We see them grow as they adapt the idea of social messaging for a cause. But they brutally underestimate the futility of the effort as they get overwhelmed by the lost and hidden worlds.
This is where our final believer comes in. Miharu’s daughter survived despite the world she lived in and is the symbol of hope for both the viewers and Goreng/Baharat. She hasn’t been indoctrinated to be anything other than who she is. While nothing in the world may change, she brings about an idea of an elusive regeneration of a population that has lost itself.
The thing I love the most about “El Hoyo” is the liveliness of its characters. We have a hauntingly nuanced performance by Zorion Eguileor, who is probably the worst roommate a man can ever have. From his skittish behavior when introduced to his constant “obvio’s”, the man is a nightmare. But I loved the way he called attention to himself in the scenes when he gorges upon leftover food and prepares Goreng’s body to be eaten. Never have I loved a gruesome character more than I loved his Trimagasi. I wanted to refer to him as evil and a villain but he is no more a villain than Goreng himself. A selfish man who is on the wrong side of human compassion, he does have his shining moments. He provides comradeship to Goreng at the beginning of his journey and shares multiple pieces of himself. While he may be the devil but the devil was also an angel.
Finally, the last thing I want to talk about is the cinematography of the film. I am not trained in filming but I do love my aesthetics. And boy does this film deliver. One of my favorite shots is the bit where there is an extreme closeup of Goreng’s eye as he first awakens in “El Hoyo”. A few other shots I loved were the food preparation shots which make me long for delicious food in this long quarantine. In order to enjoy these and more, do watch this amazing movie and beware of scenes that might make you squeamish. They are all worth it!
The Platform (El Hoyo) is available for viewing on Netflix worldwide.