Althusserian Marxism and Class Consciousness in Urrutia’s “The Platform” (2019)
Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia’s “The Platform” is a story about survival. The narrative is an open representation of a hierarchal, empathy-less society in which cruelty is the norm, and even those who beg to differ from the norm, succumb to certain cruelty in order to survive in the end.
It is not a surprise that the narrative is rigged with connotations of a capitalist society, but it is interesting that the progression of the film brings in a surprisingly unbiased representation of not just capitalist ideology, but also socialist ideology just the same. The story is void of a preference, in fact, it is merely a re-presentation of what simply is.
The movie opens with the “administration” randomly placing people on different levels arranged vertically, or as we can call them classes. The administration supposedly aims to induce a sense of community and common organisation between the levels by sending down the platform full of food for each level at intervals, enough for each level to sustain themselves with minimal food. However, it is at this point where humanity beats itself for Urrutia. As obvious, the first few classes, the uppermost of the chain are particularly privileged as they gain access to the platform full of food at the very beginning. While greed is a theme in the film, a more pressing concept with regard to greed is the nature of the classes.
Each level is greedy, cruelty is present in every conscious mind on every level, and it either ranges from pride or from jealousy and envy. But Goreng is different. The holier-than-thou protagonist with a saviour complex is on the completely opposite end spectrum as compared to his fellow inmates, especially his cellmate Trimagasi, but the question probes, will he stay the same until the end?
Urrutia introduces systematic change through Goreng’s character, only to open up the discourse around concepts like class mobility, privilege, and from a holistic end statement point of view, he turns the narrative into a repeated reminder that “one is already always a subject” in Althusser's words.
It is interesting how systemic change is only allowed to penetrate the narrative when the protagonist is at a higher level or class. Goreng with his subtly communist ideas is made to become part of the system that he detests but not just superficially, he also becomes the system that he detests.
In the process of his endeavour to bring equity between the levels, he becomes just as cruel as the administration. This is foregrounded beautifully as Imoguiri tries to show the inmate's reason day after day but fails. Her failure is the last nudge for Goreng’s character to finally bring revolution and change.
However, the brutality that comes with the systemic change is not very different from the brutality the administration subjects the inmates to. In the end, it is inevitably Goreng’s successful social mobility that allows him to bring the change he wants to bring, and it is the same inevitability that renders him a representation of an alternative system, just as unjust as the previous one.
Brutality exists in every ideology that the narrative presents. There is no bias towards or prejudice against ideological thought the narrative brings forward, which is the most realistic representation of modern society. Goreng forces his ideology on the people on the other levels through violence for his end goal.
The narrative in the movie represents the very corrupt socialist ideology as much as the capitalist ideology and the fact that no one escapes systematic corruption. Goreng who is an idealist turns into a murderer, and a cannibal by the end of the film, something that at the beginning he refused to indulge in.
It is a very conscious decision of the writers that Goreng carries along with Don Quixote with him into the prison. The idealism is often represented as foolishness which is a very evident tone in the narrative of Don Quixote itself. Like Quixote, Goreng is aware of his class position, of the limited privileges he has, and very much like Quixote is set out on an idealistic mission. It is also the same class consciousness that allows Goreng to make use of his transcendence and class mobility in order to enable systemic change.
Quite interestingly the narrative has been infused with Christian ideological references in the film as well. The scripture that is quoted by Imoguiri and Trimagasi, comes off as an eerie justification for the violence and the horrific act of cannibalism, at our ideological consciousness is so saturated with ideas is oftentimes a pacifier for us, so that society can justify cruelty, violence and more. The fact that both Imoguiri and Trimagasi remind Goreng that they are a part of him because he ate their flesh and drank their blood, is a very strong foregrounding for the end of the film where Goreng who was basically Don Quixote, the knight against the feudal system and the saviour of all has to become that very system, as well as the product of the system, Imoguiri and Trimagasi’s metaphorical personas respectively
Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia’s “The Platform” is a blatant reminder of how neo-capitalist society is the epitome of cruelty, and so is the alternative that comes along with the will to bring in change. The ending of the film is left to the audience, but more so society, as the director himself has stated. It is more about what society does with the “message” and the type of society that the message goes to, as compared to whether or not the inmates survive the administration.