SPAIN: The Platform (El hoyo, 2019)

Hell for a Heavenly Cause

by Collin McCafferty

Please read the crafter statement before watching the video essay.  Thank you.

For decades, Spain has been struggling to make a true and lasting impact within the global cinema market. Few critically acclaimed films saw international financial success, and many of the ones that did weren’t even in Spanish. In an attempt to change course and propel themselves into the global eye, Spain invested in a partnership with the streaming service Netflix. Soon after, they found a success that no one was expecting.

The Platform was one of the first foreign films to truly take the digital streaming world by storm. Released by Netflix in 2019 after a short run at several film festivals, the Spanish film became ranked among the top ten best performing original programs on the service and to this day and remains the most popular original foreign film on the service as of October of this year (Moore). Though released in 2019, the film did not experience its explosive success until 2020, no doubt the claustrophobic setting and purposefully timeless commentary connecting intimately with its quarantined viewers who at the time were trapped inside their home and looking outside to an uncertain world.

Even from a cursory viewing, the pseudo-dystopian setting of The Platform speaks volumes about inequalities in society. The prisoners at the top get fed first and gluttonize themselves, eating without any sympathy for the people below them. Those at the lower levels of the prison are punished for simply being there, a position that is chosen for them without their control. By the time the platform reaches those at the bottom, there is no food to speak of. In every way but outright stating it, The Platform is telling its viewers that the prison represents the inequalities that exist in the real world. There’s also plenty of religious imagery and references, namely the small hints that the prison may be hell itself. Still, the film leaves many questions unanswered. It never shows anything outside of the prison, mixes characters’ hallucinations with reality, and leaves its own ending completely ambiguous. So while many viewers were left with the feeling that they “got the message,” they were also left with the need for further explanation.

The Platform’s combination of intrigue, popularity, and strong allegory was the perfect mix for a different content service: Youtube. Dozens of different film Youtubers all released their own video essays covering the film: from casual discussions, to theories about the ending, to hour long in depth overviews. Admittedly, I (like many others) watched many of these videos in the hope of gleaning greater meaning from a film that so obviously harbors content worth taking apart. But at the end of it, I was left feeling mostly disappointed. Even though there was an immense quantity of ideas being presented about the film, they were all the same ideas.

“It’s capitalism!”Yeah, obviously. “There’s 333 levels which means there’s 666 prisoners!”Yes, we can all count. “It’s about how people are selfish!” The cast of selfish characters hadn’t clued me into that, thanks.


It was from this frustration that this video essay was born. I want to talk about this film beyond just the surface level like so many others have done before, because I believe this film has merit beyond just the political and social allegory, and it’s those ideas that need to be discussed more. It’s only through analysis of other aspects can discourse around this film evolve and move forward. Among the sea of repetition, only two pieces I came across mentioned a major aspect of the film that ultimately became the central theme of my own video essay: Don Quixote.

After being first mentioned in the film, the ideas of Don Quixote haunt the rest of the film. The original Spanish book is described as an “anti-romance novel” as it tore down the fantastical elements of past literary eras, becoming what is considered the first modern novel and even the greatest Spanish book ever written (“Don Quixote De La Mancha”). The ultimate idea that I wish to portray is that The Platform is a pseudo retelling of Don Quixote. The protagonists (who share a stunning resemblance with each other) are afflicted by the same delusions in dramatically different contexts, but through these delusional attempts to mend the world ultimately show the harsh reality that exists around them. Quixote showed that the world was no longer noble, that it wasn’t a place for good deeds and good men. Meanwhile, Goreng showed that the world was careless, selfish and unfair.

In the audiovisual medium that are video essays, it’s always best to use those tools in order to conduct analysis. At first, I wished to find an excerpt from Don Quixote to record, one that could connect to The Platform. This failed, as there was no one section that condensed the ideas I wanted to. So I looked to a medium that had already condensed Don Quixote for me: musicals. The song that both begins and concludes this essay is “The Impossible Dream,” a song sung by Don Quixote in the musical Man of La Mancha. It serves as an explanation about why he does what he does, delusions and all. For video essay purposes, it’s both a crash course on the ideals of Don Quixote (the character) and an excellent musical backdrop for a visual compilation. In that way, I was able to draw a line between the two works, and the two men without needing to explain myself within the moment.

I hope that this essay leaves you with a more profound feeling of contentment than what I felt when I watched essays about The Platform. I hope my essay demonstrates that The Platform has a story worth telling rather than just a thinly veiled message about how bad the world is.


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