The Platform explained: the philosophical meaning of the movie

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This article reveals the explained plot and the detailed events in the Netflix movie The Platform, revealing its meaning, symbols and storyline. We recommend you to read it only after watching the movie, and not before, in order to preserve the pleasure of the first vision.

Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia’s film, The Platform, represents an idea full of symbolic meanings and full of different themes, from the psychology of the individual to the existentialism in front of the difficulties, up to the noble reasons that move Nietzsche’s superman in his struggle throughout his life. A film, therefore, that impacts with a certain impetus on the spectator audience.

The film is about a prison organized in many levels. Each floor has a cell and in the center of each cell there is a hole through which the platform passes. From the first floor to the last, the platform brings food for the prisoners. As it can immediately come to mind, while the platform descends towards “the pit”, food gets less and less. This is the first aspect that the director highlights: food is the semiotic sign of a specific logic that characterizes the intention of the particular structure of the prison. The more the platform goes down, the less food it brings, therefore there is a difference between the various prisoners, a difference which is mobile. The adjective “mobile” highlights another very interesting aspect of the prison in question. The detainees change cell every month.

The last useful day they are sent to sleep with gas and then awakened, at the beginning of the new month, inside a cell that can be among those destined to get more food or among those destined to a total lack of supplies. In this lies the existential dart of the prisoners, a connotation that makes the prison a novelty in terms of the search for forms of social experimentation. The structure of the prison obviously recalls the archetypal identity of Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon, since the detainees see nothing but their companions, but they do not see their jailer who in turn sees them. An example of this dynamic is represented by the fact that Goreng, the protagonist, risks burning both himself and his cellmate Trimagasi alive, because at the beginning he is skeptical about the mechanism of food, hypostatizing for the prison, and he thinks he can keep in his pocket the only healthy apple that is found on the platform even when it has gone downstairs, in order to eat it later.

The Platform | Main Trailer | Netflix

Food is a form of representation of the conflict between individuals, since it’s because of food or lack of it that men lose the light of reason. The vision of a “spontaneous solidarity”, as it’s defined within the film, which presupposes that at each level the food is eaten by caloric ration necessary for each individual, seems somewhat utopian and pretentious, because man is by nature contextualized to our individualistic social system. Hobbes’ maxim identified in the saying “homo homini lupus”, reflects this alienating individualism that boycotts any intention of solidarity.

For this reason, in contexts where survival becomes the only glimmer of light, it seems completely utopian to think in terms of solidarity with the other. So, because of this observation regarding being in solidarity, there is a phenomenon produced that looks like an equation. As the platform descends, food gets scarce, until you get to the lower floors and, lacking food, the prisoners lose the light of reason. In the loss of reason cannibalism is produced, which becomes, in fact, the signal not only of finding oneself on a particularly lower plane, but which also appears to be the sign of that total need to survive which is summarized in the Latin phrase “Mors tua vita mea”.

All detainees, when they are brought back to the prison, choose an object to take with them for the entire pre-established stay. Goreng, the protagonist, choose to bring with him a book, Don Quixote, which would seem a romantic and intellectual choice, given the place where he is, but which actually acts as a mirror for the meaning sent by the movie. Goreng, at the moment when he finds himself at the sixth, level where he would have the privilege of eating any dish possible, understands that the system cannot contrasted with adaptation, waiting for you to be the best in terms of floors positioning, but he resided in sacrificing himself, so that something would change and a real message would arrive to the famous “administration” which is constantly mentioned.

Therefore, our protagonist chooses to go down to the pit and distribute the food according to each ration so that it is distributed equally, with the help of his new cellmate, Baharat. The enterprise is chivalrous in the quixotic sense of the term, since it is arduous and given the real dynamics of that specific reality it seems impossible compared to the expectations of our hero (Goreng) and in this, Baharat really acts as Sancho Panza, trying to rationalize the intentions of the protagonist (who acts as Don Quixote), making him understand that it seems something impossible to complete. But at this point of the narrative, the messianism that Goreng brought on him will prevail and therefore, with steel bars in the hands, riding the platform that brings the food for the various floors, he will go down with his Sancho Panza up to last floor.

The most fascinating aspect of the film is not the fact that the class struggle is inherent in the theme of food redistribution, since this could also be a trivial and obvious interpretation, but it’s in how certain points of classical literature have been interpreted, ranging from Don Quixote, in fact presented in the film through the concrete reading of its pages, up to Dante’s Divine Comedy with this nice allegory of the pit like a real Hell. So, based on a more literary interpretation of the film, it could also happen that the ending, so restless and uncertain, which left disappointed many spectators, could leave some hope and some small glimmer to think that, in the end, power can be subverted and contrasted.

On this point, where we can see the aspects of a Superman ready to lose everything in order to meet his own cause, also the hero’s fateful journey is showed, and the latter is well aware of the peregrinations and dangers that his path involves. From Don Quixote to Dante, from Frodo Beggins to Neo Anderson, Goreng faces his demons, who archetypically in the history of the Hero are embodied by the fearsome Dragon, proceeding with a drawn sword towards his destiny, without looking back and without being fooled by fears.

The film, therefore, highlights the great metaphor of existence through this facet of the hero pushing man to embrace the dramas of his existence.

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