Should one be ashamed of winning the lottery?
Why “The Platform” is the perfect movie for the following decade
Is it possible to capture everything that’s wrong in the world in one movie? In clear violation of Betteridge’s law, (of headlines) the answer is yes, and The Platform (El Hoyo, Netflix), a small Basque movie released late 2019, is that movie.
Hyperbole aside, the movie is a grand experience in its own right, and it leaves that all too important sour aftertaste that makes you think about it for days or weeks to come, like raw snails. That’s why I nominate The Platform as the most important film of the 2020s and now is the perfect time to watch it if you haven’t.
“48 is a good number. You get to eat, most days.”
Many said that Covid-19 was the great equalizer, that it’d hit poor and rich the same, that a virus doesn’t discriminate. We’re all in this together, they said.
The world isn’t fair and shit flows downhill. In The Platform it’s not shit but food that goes down. The concept is simple. 350 levels, 2 persons per floor. Once a day a smorgasbord of the most delicious food descends through a hole in the ceiling. At each level it stops for a while letting the two inhabitants feast like medieval aristocrats, their chins glistening with fat.
The catch is that the food, all the delicious panna cotta and bloody tenderloin and creamed potatoes with timian, it’s lowered from the top down, stopping only briefly on each floor. Those on level 1 eat first, then level 2, and so on. Once a month, everyone is allocated a new level by random chance.
The outcome is as predictable as it’s dystopian.
We humans are generally not known for our self-restraint. In The Platform, if just one person eats more than their share, there’s less food for the bottom dregs. Next month the tables might be turned, and you can be sure those below will now eat up. It’s a vicious cycle.
The culture that develops is greedy, hedonistic, egoistic, and shortsighted. Those below curse those above for eating it all. And those lucky enough to wake up close to the top have no sympathy for those below them because they used to be the ones spitting in their food, or soon will be.
The film starts at level 48. “It’s a good number”, our protagonist is told by an older guy he shares the cell with. “You get to eat, most days”. A few levels later, the cornucopia is mostly empty, like a moose carcass picked clean by vultures. Further down, there won’t even be a single raisin left, and still hundreds of levels to go. With only two people a cell and nothing to eat for a month, solutions are worth their weight in flesh.
The people won’t listen to me.
- Why not?
I can’t shit upwards.
I won’t go into an in-depth analysis of the movie’s many elements, but the similarity with today’s modern society is striking. It makes you to wonder: which level would you be on and what would you do?
That’s where this “review” enters, on level 16, where I live (top 5% income in the world: ~$30.000 annual income).
Most of you who read these words are on level 3–35. Congratulations. You get to eat. Maybe not your favorite food, but enough. Just a bit below you there might not be enough for ends to meet. Further down, suffering runs rampant. Only the desperate or resilient survives.
But it doesn’t have to be like that. In The Platform there’s food enough for everyone. The grand delicatessen table holds everyone’s favorite dish, and if they eat only one dish, no one has to starve. If only those higher up didn’t eat more than their share. Shouldn’t they limit their consumption? Shouldn’t they at the very least refrain from pissing on the food going down?
You’d imagine so, but nah. The clock is ticking and it all tastes just too good. Besides, screw those bastards below. They’d do the same in a heartbeat.
I’ve used a lot of time and energy to blame those above me, the rich, for not giving more. But it’s only a projection of my own shame. I might be an idealist, just like the protagonist in The Platform, but I too eat more than I should. Yet I raised my fist together with Occupy Wall Street in 2008 (in spirit at least), not realizing I’m part of the elite I cursed.
Like in the movie, I’ve gone through various phases in my relationship with the status quo. The protagonist, after his idealistic bent, succumbs to the system and takes care of numero uno. Can’t fix it, can’t fight it, and no one gives a shit. Then, at one point, he starts believing again in a fair world. Those below do not, so he threatens them with pooping in their food unless they also reduce their consumption. Solidarity wrapped in shit, or, the carrot and stick model of welfare. Too bad he “can’t shit upwards”.
But where the protagonist in The Platform finally resorts to enforced redistribution in a parallel to socialistic revolution (after various attempts at establishing “spontaneous solidarity”), I do little more than attempt to reduce my footprint. Recycle, buy used, and that kind of stuff. But if other levels devour all that they can, does it really help?
Should I be ashamed of winning the lottery?
I watched the movie during the Covid-19 lockdown. Home office, delicious food delivered by bike to my apartment, evening runs in empty streets, enough introversion to enjoy the reduced tempo. I even have an open store next to me that has avocados and bananas from the far reaches of the world. That’s how privileged I am. And now that society is opening up again, I’m actually a bit nostalgic. I had a good time.
But when I watched The Platform I became painfully aware that not only am I so privileged that I can have an enjoyable time in the middle of a fucking pandemic, my pleasure comes at the cost of those suffering down in the pits of the 90%.
While I don’t eat anyone’s share of food, I’m part of destroying their environment. Climate change doesn’t pause even if the world does. We deplete the soil, fill the oceans with plastic, pump Co2 into the atmosphere, cut down forests, kill entire species, all so I can get some avocado snacks while watching a movie like The Platform on giant ass flat screen.
I don’t think we should be ashamed for the lucky hand we’ve been dealt, being placed on the top 35 floors and all that. No more than one should be ashamed of winning the lottery. But perhaps we could be more conscious of our place in the hierarchy and at least offer a thought to those below us.
That’s why El Hoyo is the perfect film for the “roaring 20's”; it shows us what will happen with those less fortunate when we collectively engorge on another taco Tuesday or black Friday.