The Platform, 2019, director Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia’s debut feature, is a potent allegory for power dynamics, societal hierarchy, and human behaviour. The film acts as a case study exploring this societal commentary when survival instincts kick in amidst an environment lacking morality and social restrictions. The themes of Constructivism, Rationalism and Brutalism reflected in the material board and colour story, represent this recurring theme of scarcity and hunger. In addition to the social, political, and philosophical issues, the film is an interesting perspective into how the use of architecture and physical space can aid in defining these dystopian cinematic spaces.

An architectural review of The Platform-Sheet1
The Platform 2019_@IMDB

The Pit

At the core of ‘The Platform’ both symbolically and within the vertical prison lies the ‘Pit’, the hollow core of the structure. The facility houses a total of 334 levels stacked atop each other, completely identical, except for level 0. The individual level is essentially a cell sparsely furnished with two beds, a mirror, a sink and a commode, with a rectangular opening in the centre, dividing the space for its two occupants. The titular platform descends through this opening once a day, with a limited amount of a rather elaborate feast starting at level 0. The platform gradually descends at each level with supposedly enough food for everyone, with the clause of sufficiency only if the prisoners eat only what they need.

Each level is occupied by a pair of prisoners, for a countdown of 30 days.  A defining characteristic is the fleeting nature of almost every element of their lives within the prison, be it the availability of food, the comfort of a familiar companion or the physical space/ level they occupy. This temporal factor festers as greed within the minds of the prisoners. 

An architectural review of The Platform-Sheet2
Levels Set Design_@INTJournal

The dimensions of the cell were meticulously curated, with a final floor plate of 9m x 6m, a ratio of 1:1.5. The height of the levels had to factor in restricted access to the upper floors, such that two people, one on top of the other, could not access it or even with a rope they would require the help of those on the floor above. This concluded in a height of 4.3 meters, although due to a 12.5m height restriction on set, the lower floor was decidedly built 77% lower, unnoticeable to the viewers from the first level, all the elements including the hole were constructed proportionately 77% smaller. 

Visual Analysis

The production designer, Azegine Urigotia, envisioned a physical representation of class and social hierarchy using architecture. The verticality of the structure amplifies this sense of hierarchy, with each level representing a distinct socio-economic stratum. The physical identicality of the levels within the prison masterfully represents the illusion and futility of separation within the structure. Thereby portraying the temporary nature of ‘class’ amongst the prisoners doomed to face their inevitable fate of imprisonment at the end of the day.

An architectural review of The Platform-Sheet3
Cell Set Design_@INTJournal

The concrete structure and brutalist themes, devoid of decoration, are intelligently implemented to embody a harsh and emotionless environment. The space was designed with the idea of ‘erasing or cancelling their personality’, a cold and imposing space designed to strip away hints of humanity. Amidst a barren cell, the contrast of the luxurious food atop the platform emphasizes concepts of greed and scarcity, to amplify the limited nature of what is ‘luxurious’ much like the societies we live in. The moving platform depicts the status quo and its fleeting interpretation amongst the minds of men.

Another notable contrast is the nuances in the geometry of the elements. The sharp, hard, simple and repetitive forms of the cell juxtaposed against the organic, soft, liquid and changing shapes of the food are presented as works of art, susceptible to destruction.

Colour Story

  1. The Cells: The film uses muted greys, industrial blues, and dull whites to characterize the bleak and barren nature of the prison, evoking a sense of dehumanization and institutionalization. The furniture and prisoner uniforms also integrate these themes, to emphasize this coldness and isolation on both macro and micro levels within the frame.
  2. The Platform: The deliberate juxtaposition of the rich colours of the food loaded on the platform, depicts the scarcity, power, and privilege of elements from outside the pit. This colour palette extends to that of the kitchen, contrasting the pit, a space full of colour, abundance, and movement.
  3. Character Flashbacks: The use of warm colours represents a humane sense of self, nostalgia, and innocence, serving as a reminder of the character’s changed perspectives and survival instincts.
  4. The Color Red: Certain intense and darker scenes utilize a wash of red, acting as a symbol of violence, passion and rebellion, both against the institution and against one’s mind.
An architectural review of The Platform-Sheet4
Level 48_@Netflix

The Status Quo: Symbolism

The prisoner’s lens through which he perceives the platform parallels man’s subjective need to challenge the status quo depending on which class he occupies. The platform can almost be conceived as an additional character in the plot, playing the role of an antagonist. It represents a trickle-down system of scarcity that still leaves space for sufficiency. This antagonistic system brings about conflict, with each class left with the leftovers of the one above. In a way, it is a test and an experiment on the inherent nature of the human psyche and whether one can overcome greed and the feeling of scarcity in the very system that allows it. It represents members of a community rather than individuals, living rather than mere survival.

The film can also be construed as an allegory of hell, specifically, a linear interpretation of Dante’s concentric layers of hell, representative of a decaying society. Other structures explored within the film are Freudian themes of the human psyche, the Id, Ego, and Superego. The film is not just a commentary on modern society, but also an introspective look into spiritual justice.

An architectural review of The Platform-Sheet5
The platform_@IMDB


“The Platform’ offers a thought-provoking commentary on socio-economic inequality and a hierarchical class system. The potent metaphor of the titular platform within the film makes way for discourse on whether a societal utopia is achievable or is merely an unrealistic standard. The use of architecture in a dystopian cinematic space and the impact it has on the narrative and storytelling within the film has been masterfully explored by director Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia and production designer Azegine Urigotia.

Through a specific lens, the system is not flawed. It is equal to the participants in the rules of its own game.  Which begs the question, how inherent are greed and selfishness to the psychology of survival in humans?


  1. Azegiñe Urigoitia – Interiors : An online publication about architecture and film, Interiors. Available at: (Accessed: 31 March 2024). 
  2. The Platform 2019, Netflix

Angela is an architect, designer and writer who is driven by her passion for research and curiosity to learn. With an affinity for heritage conservation and experiential & sensory design, she finds inspiration in exploring the psychological relationship between man and his perception of architecture, art and culture.