Netflix’s Plataform and the problem of artificial solidarity creation

Launched on March 20, the Spanish moivie The Plataform, original Netflix’ production is raising the attention of critics and audiences, both for its nuisance style of filming and scenes graphically shocking, recalling the movement of New French Extremity, headed by Gaspar Noé, especially for his feature film Irreversible, from and very well defined by Alexandra West in her book Films of the New French Extrimity: Visceral Horror and National Identity; either by the political and social provocations raised during the plot, ranging from considerations about social inequality and distribution of resources within a society, through aphorisms related to human nature and culminating in a possible (depending on the viewer’s interpretation) metaphysical discussion.

Under the direction of Galter Gaztelu-Urrutia we are presented with two main characters, Goreng, who at first appears to be the hero of the story and The Plataform in itself, who has the official name of the Vertical Center for Self-Management. This is a kind of voluntary imprisonment, where prisoners voluntarily incarcerated themselves for a period that they themselves determined. Some seek stop smoking, control anxiety, or even finish a book , everyone has the right to take an object and Goreng choose a copy of Don Quixote of la Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes.

The dynamics of The Plataform seem quite simple: when entering to the unit each prisoner informs his favorite dish, once inside he wakes up on a random floor where he will stay for a month. Each floor is a simple cubicle, with little furniture, shared by two inmates and with an open gap in the middle, through which a platform passes, from the top to the bottom, like an elevator.

This platform contains a banquet, where theoretically there must be a favorite dish for each prisoner, it begins to descend on the first floor and must continue until the last. The platform stops for a while on each floor, where detainees have the right to eat whatever they can during the given time. Of course, just one dish is not enough to satisfy an adult for 24 hours and those who wake up on the higher floors are benefited, as they can eat their meal and as many others as they can, the unlucky ones who wake up on a low floor probably not have access to food and probably some perish of hunger.

Goreng’s first cellmate, Trimagassi, an inmate already experienced, tries to explain this logic of the Plataform’s operation, by stating that there are three types of people there, those from above, those from below and those who fall. At first Goreng tries to resist the dynamics presented and feeds only on what is strictly necessary. This altruistic attitude falls apart when Goreng wakes up in cell 171 and is faced with a minimum of food for a month.

Here there seems to be a very simple and low criticism of the capitalist production system, the repeated fallacy that “if everyone consumed only what was necessary, there would be enough so that no one would go through any need”, completely ignoring the phenomenon of scarcity.

Advancing a little in the plot, Trimagassi is no longer part of the Platform and Goreng wakes up on a privileged floor with his new companion Imoguiri. A former employee of the unit ‘s administration, she always eats as little as she needs and prepares two dishes for the inmates immediately below, also with a tiny amount of food.

Imoguiri tirelessly asks his companions in the lower cell to repeat the process, believing that in this way she would be able to provide the minimum necessary until the last cell. Without success, she is ridiculed every time.

Goreng is curious about his companion’s attitude, which reveals that the Platform is nothing more than a social experiment that tries to artificially create what she calls “spontaneous solidarity” (which in itself is already an evident contradiction). This is the point that interests us for the debate about public management and morality in the distribution of wealth.

Imoguiri’s speech seems to bring back the idealistic Goreng from the beginning of the story, but unlike his friendly companion, he is extremely aggressive and authoritarian, threatening to destroy the entire meal if the prisoners in the cell below do not collaborate with his allegedly humanitarian plan. This new facet showed by Goreng seems to dominate the character, now fascinated by his own utopia and transform his personality.

In another script advance, Goreng now joins a new partner, Baharat, again at a privileged level and aims to put his plan into practice. They go down with the platform and try to force the lower level to contribute and eat only what is necessary. The most fragile detainees collaborate through verbal coercion and physical threats, but when the pair are faced with physically superior opponents, both decide that it is time to arm themselves with iron bars and make use of violence, if not murder, of all those who did not agree, in a grotesque graphic sequence that presents itself to the viewer.

Goreng had a noble idea, but his ideological passion blinded him and, in the failed attempt to implement his ideas, eliminated his sense of reality (as ideology usually does) leading him to cruelly execute many of those he once wished to protect. To make the outcome more cruel (in the best style of Gaspar Noé), as the platform goes down he discovers that even if everyone adhered to his plan, food would still be missing, since he had calculated enough supply for 300 floors, but finds out that the Platform had 333. The ruthless reality of scarcity proved to be more real than Goreng’s dream.

In a clear, albeit verysubtle, allusion to the socialist disasters of the 20th century, The Platform reminds us of the inability to artificially generate spontaneous solidarity and the carnage that was always generated when States tried to create “forced charity”, always on the pretext of transformation of the world into a better place, the anticipation of paradise on earth.

Solidarity and the Charity are virtues moral and theological, respectively, characterized by love of neighbor, detachment from oneself and the sense of community (koinonia) and this condition should be developed freely, since because some may be cultivated through coercion and thus can not be artificialized or forced into existence by violence or threat by a dominant entity or some authoritarian individual, such as the one who became Goreng.

With a striking and unique style, which is only remotely remember movies like Saw, Scape Room and Snowpiercer, peculiar aesthetic (although the environment enegrecid the good part of the film facilitate the work of the photography director), claustrophobic environment and some easter eggs , like the fact that Goreng spent the film reading Don Quixote and being himself a herald of a lost cause, the film is a success in terms of entertainment, holding the attention of those who watch in a mixture of curiosity, disgust and feeling of revolt, where purposely all the sympathy developed by the character Goreng during two hours of film is shattered in the last minutes, as the popularity of certain authoritarian rulers that, in the face of the first productive scarcity, show their true facinous spectrum. A situation very peculiar to Latin American nations colonized  by Spaniards, as the characters in the Platform.

Although quite shallow, becoming a true record player addicted to clichés, in criticisms regarding the selfish condition of man , production and social inequality and even a Foucauldian appeal the metaphor of “prisons”, the work is also a success in sparking discussion about the impossibility of artificially creating solidarity and the disaster of forced distribution of goods. Although it was received with adoration for many movements and collectivist intellectuals for his explicit criticism of the capitalist production system, the work contains one incisive and elegant critique of socialism, which can be unnoticed at first glance, but it becomes the main and most interesting argument made by Gaztelu-Urrutia.

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