FILM REVIEW: THE PLATFORM/EL HOYO (FANTASTIC FEST)
As 2019’s FANTASTIC FEST rolls on in Austin Texas, it brings with it all the weird and fantastic films that a name like that promises. I can tell you as someone who has covered various film festivals around the world, FANTASTIC FEST is one that we keep an extremely close eye on. I can also tell you that in my nearly two decades as a genre reporter, I have RARELY given out a perfect score for a film. A “perfect” score is reserved for an extremely rare type of film that changes my perspective on what is possible in a cinematic experience. I do not mince words here, as an experience is the only way to describe the Spanish film THE PLATFORM. As a writer for FEAR FOREVER this will be only the second time I have awarded a film a 5 Tombstone out of 5 in my two years on staff.
The film begins as Goreng (Ivan Massagué) awakens in a cement prison cell of sorts, with a seemingly endless hole in the center of it. This hole goes farther down than Goreng can see, and up farther too. As Goreng is trying to get his bearings, he notices a man across from him in the cell. His “cellmate” is an elderly man named Trimagasi (Zorion Eguileor) who is going to give us the lowdown on what fresh hell we’ve just entered. This place is affectionately known as “the pit”.
Each day, for what seems like a matter of minutes, a platform descends from the level above containing food. From the opening frames of the film, we know that the food is prepared in the most 5-star gourmet conditions imaginable. Every dish is carefully crafted down to the finest detail. I’m talking about the kind of place where a tweezer is needed to place the finishing touches on each plate. Here’s the catch…as the platform descends it’s only what the levels above have left the ones below. Not so bad if you’re on level 10 or so, but try telling that to the guys in level 100. What if someone on a level above you decides spit (or worse) on the food as it descends? It’s not a pretty sight.
Each month, the inmates are moved (via what appears to be random selection) to a new floor. They keep the same cellmate, provided they haven’t killed and eaten each other, which is further dependent upon what level is selected for them. Each inmate is also allowed to have one single item. Since it seems that no one really knows what they’ve gotten themselves into, the items run the gamut. Goreng has brought a copy of DON QUIXOTE that he has always intended to read. His roomie on the other hand has brought a self sharpening knife. Let the games begin! Did I also mention that some inmates are there voluntarily? There are perks for the few that make it out of the pit after volunteering to attend. For many, it’s a mandatory sentence at a correctional facility.
THE PLATFORM is much more than what is presented on the surface, and there is a proverbial feast for the senses presented on that surface. It’s quite possibly the best dystopian prison movie in existence…and yes, I’m familiar with CUBE & FORTRESS. I really enjoy both of those films, but THE PLATFORM is a cut above. It’s heavy on message without feeling heavy.
It’s a parable for communism vs. consumerism. It’s a commentary on classism and human interconnectedness. It’s an allegory about Christianity, the holy trinity, and a metaphor about Jesus himself. It’s an example of how even the slightest amount of power can corrupt a person, and an example of how altruism can survive in even the most hellish of places. But guess what? It’s also a kick-ass movie about a mysterious and deranged prison that has plenty of guts and gore for horror and action junkies alike. It’s a balance I wasn’t aware could be struck.
I found myself thinking about it for days, and it just kept rolling around in my brain. I have a hunch that if you were to ask me about it in another week, or upon another viewing, I’d probably have some new idea of what it was about or what other hidden symbolism lies within. The fact that the film manages to be wildly entertaining while also packing such a philosophical punch is no small feat. Even more impressive is the fact that this is director Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia’s first feature film. Most filmmakers will work their entire careers without even coming close to a cinematic marvel of this caliber. THE PLATFORM has already won the People’s Choice Award: Midnight Madness at this years TIFF, and that’s a list that contains some heavyweights of genre cinema. I have a feeling this is just the first of many awards to come.
THE PLATFORM (EL HOYO) has it’s final FANTASTIC FEST screening Thursday Sept 26th at 10:15am.
“THE PLATFORM is quite possibly the best dystopian prison movie in existence”
5 Tombstones out of 5…