By Nicole Patano ’22
Hay tres clases des personas: los de arriba, los de abajo, los que caen. Such is the way in “The Pit,” a vertical prison imagined by writers David Desola and Pedro Rivera and put onto screen by director Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia in The Platform (originally, El Hoyo). The Pit consists of at least 333 levels, with two prisoners on each level. Every day, a platform filled with a decadent array of food lowers from level zero until it reaches the last level, at which point it returns to level zero, always with no food remaining—only bones and broken bottles.
At each level, the prisoners have two minutes to eat whatever they can; all food or scraps must be returned to the platform when it lowers or else the prisoners on that level will be boiled or frozen alive. By the time the platform descends 50 levels, most of the food has already been consumed or defiled by the 98 people above. Those on the higher levels—los de arriba—gorge themselves without thinking of those on the lower levels—los de abajo. The only exception is when those at the top step, spit, urinate, and defecate on the food in an attempt to make it inedible for those below them.
At first, these acts seem to be completely senseless. It should not affect anyone who has already eaten if the people below them get to eat, right? Unfortunately (though sometimes fortunately), levels are reassigned each month. It matters not your age, race, class, gender, or crime—you can move from level 132 to level eight overnight. Gaztelu-Urrutia smartly places all of the action of The Platform in The Pit to show that regardless of who you are outside in the real world, once you enter The Pit, everyone is the same.
The Platform is an anti-capitalism film. There is the obvious distinction between the people who run The Pit and the people who live in it; however, there is the added distinction between those at the top and those at the bottom of The Pit. The interesting dynamic in The Platform is the fact that the people within these categories change every month. Yet, you can clearly see how people adjust to their level, either acting with increased greed or desperation, always selfishly. Though one thing remains constant: they feel a sense of superiority over those below them and a sense of resentment towards those above them, even if they were in the same spot just one day ago.
Empathy does not exist in The Pit. It really is every person for themself, which is why most people bring weapons as their one allowed item into The Pit. Even when some prisoners attempt to get others to ration what they eat in order to get more food to the people on the lower levels, violence and threats are the only effective means of persuasion. Those at the top refuse because they feel as though they deserve to eat better after being at the bottom or to prepare themselves for being at the bottom. Those at the bottom refuse because they need to eat all that they can to survive.
Beyond its commentary on capitalism and power, The Platform is a fascinating look into individual responsibility and morality. What role can the individual play in destroying or reforming an unjust system? The film suggests that while individuals can only do so much, cooperation between individuals is necessary to make life in an unjust system survivable. Though, paradoxically, people must die in order to make the system survivable. Is it possible to ensure everyone in The Pit (or in society) can survive? The Platform suggests that the answer is “no.” In an unjust society, some must die so that others can live—hence, los que caen, those who fall.
In addition to the primary message of The Platform, there is a secondary plot that viewers are introduced to early into the film: a mother who rides down the platform each month, desperate not for food but her child, whom she believes to be somewhere in The Pit. No children are supposed to be in The Pit; such a policy is meant to make The Pit a humane place. What would it mean if a child were discovered by those who prepare the food every day but who are not fully aware of how what happens to the food once it leaves level zero? You will have to watch The Platform to find out—though the ending may not leave you satisfied.
Rating: 5/5 stars