With The Platform, Spanish director Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia has crafted a dystopian masterpiece with a sharp bite. The film explores class inequality and solidarity, elevating the conversation and causing the audience to question their understanding of morality.
I was able to sit down with Gaztelu-Urrutia to discuss The Platform and its adaptation from play to film.
[Click here to read my full review of The Platform]
Kelly McNeely: What was the genesis of The Platform? Where did this come from?
Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia: It’s a script that was originally written for a play — a theatrical play — that, in the end, never came out. The idea was from David Desola, and he wrote the script with Pedro Rivero. Pedro and I have been friends for a long, long time, and Carlos Juarez — the producer — received the script.
So once we read the script, we understood that there was a big, big potential. We also knew that the script needed a lot of changes to turn it from a script for a play into a script for a movie, but there was a good base to work with. The principal characters and the symbology of the movie — the metaphors — you could see when reading the script, so we knew the concept was very good.
Kelly McNeely: Can you talk a little bit about the metaphors and the symbolism of The Platform?
Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia: If you watch the movie you realize that there are several levels; there are rich people in the upper levels, and poor people in the bottom levels. It’s about those different social classes, north and south. There’s another level of symbology as well, that if you watch the movie again you’ll discover more about it.
The movie is not about changing the world, but it’s about understanding and placing the viewer in one of the levels, and seeing how they would behave depending on which level they’re on. People are very similar between each other. It’s very important where you’re born — which country and which family — but we’re all very similar. It depends on where you go, but you will think and behave in a different way. So the movie is putting the viewer in the situation to face the limits of his own solidarity.
It’s easy to have solidarity if you’re on level 6; if you have a lot you can give part of that up. But will you have solidarity if you don’t even have enough for yourself? That is the question.
Kelly McNeely: There are a lot of phenomenal genre films that come out of Spain. Horror and thrillers, are those genres popular in Spain? Or perhaps not as big as they are in America?
Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia: There are not a lot of genre movies produced in Spain, but the few that are produced can travel very well among all the countries internationally. A lot of thrillers, but genre movies — horror movies — very few.
Kelly McNeely: There are some excellent universal themes and dissections of class levels, was there a reason that you really wanted to communicate that class struggle?
Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia: The movie doesn’t want to teach anything. The Platform wants to put the viewer in a place to think about how they would behave in some situations, in respect to what’s happening outside in the world right now. What would you do in each situation? So if you are in the bottom of the platform or upstairs what would you do? They don’t judge, but they pose the question and give the viewer the opportunity to decide.
Kelly McNeely: What are you or what were you inspired or influenced by when making The Platform?
Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia: This movie changed me and also changed all the people that artistically joined the process of doing the movie — the actors, etc — the movie changed them. Shooting was very hard and they gradually put themselves — really put themselves in the pit. So there were all the parts of the movie — the production, the shooting — and then while you’re inside the movie you really realize the real message the movie has. And you change yourself.
My artistic inspirations were Delicatessen, Blade Runner, Cube, of course, Next Floor; a lot of films. I like films. I’ve loved cinema since I was very, very young. A lot of little things from a lot of movies that I probably don’t really know where they’re from. And cultural baggage.
Kelly McNeely: It’s interesting that it came from a theatrical script. I can kind of sense that in the structure of it; the first two acts feel very much like a play, and there’s that great third act in there as well. Was that third act part of the play originally, and what were the challenges of filming each section?
Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia: Actually you’re totally right, because the first two acts were originally in the play but the play finished on the second act. So the play is really finished when he decides to go down. Before that, the original play stops there. So we added that.
The play’s script had a lot of potential, but we couldn’t use the same script because it was for a theatre play. I wanted to make it more physical, because there was a lot of dialogue in the first two acts. So I worked a lot with the two screenwriters to invent the third act.
There were more characters in the original script that I removed to give more time to others, to make it a more cinematographical script.
Kelly McNeely: I think it played really well, I think it was a very nice way to increase the tension and take it up to another level, but also wrap it up really nicely.
Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia: Thank you. The play was more talkative and ethological, but the cinema works better when characters make a decision and take action.
Kelly McNeely: I understand this is your first feature film as a director, what advice would you give to aspiring filmmakers?
Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia: The typical one; they have to be very stubborn to reach their goal. If you don’t work put in a lot of work to do it, you won’t succeed. Even if you work a lot and you don’t do it, you’ve tried.
Kelly McNeely: And for my last question, if you were to go into the platform, what would you bring with you? What would be your chosen object?
Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia: The samurai plus!
For more coverage from TIFF 2019, click here!