This film is brutal and visceral and one of the best commentaries I’ve seen. It’s worth checking out if you have the stomach for it.
This Spanish language film follows Goreng a prisoner in the most inhuman prison imaginable. It’s called the pit by the inmates and a “Vertical Self-Management Center” by those who run it. It’s a massive tower made up of cells.
Goreng wakes up in a simple concrete cell with two beds and a large square hole in the middle of the floor. His cell mate, named Trimagasi, informs him that every day a platform will lower from the floors above containing food. They must eat all they can before it continues down to the level below them. Those below can only eat from what those above leave behinThey are on level 48. This is a good level. By the time the platform reaches the lowest levels there is no food left. The prisoners below must resort to whatever means necessary to survive.
Goreng tries to convince those on the floors near him to save food for the lower floors, but no one listens. Every month the prisoners are randomly reassigned to different floors. Those at the top were at the bottom and refuse to save any for the lower levels. “We suffered last month. They can suffer this month. No one helped me why should I help them?” As his first month drags on the optimum Goreng is worn down by the system and begins eating his fill. However at the end of that month he and Trimagasi wake up on the 171st floor. Now they’re in trouble. To what depths of depravity will they stoop to survive?
This movie is absolutely gripping. It is a social commentary on top of a tense thriller. Every scene is wrought with tension. Goreng encounters all manner of prisoners. A woman who rides the platform down everyday looking for her son. A man desperately trying to climb to the top hoping for salvation. To a former administrator trying to come to terms with the system she served. These are fascinating characters all thrown into a pressure cooker that could explode into violence at any moment.
And boy does it explode. When there is violence it is brutal and graphic. It feels so messy and real. It is some of the most upsetting violence I’ve seen.
Speaking of upsetting the film doesn’t shy away from the horrors of what people will do to survive. When a prisoner is starving to death and his cell mate is weak, he starts looking awfully tasty. This is where people might have to turn away, or it might cause people to avoid checking it out at all. I completely understand that response. It’s not an easy movie to watch, but it is incredibly thought provoking.
It is a powerful commentary on human nature and how people behave in unfair systems. Goreng is a good person with a good heart, but when pushed by a bad system he is just as cruel and inhuman as anyone. The systems in place that put artificial limitations on us and bring out our worst impulses while not as extreme as depicted in the film are very real.
When Goreng first wakes up he tries to rally the people above him. Trimagasi informs him that people above don’t listen to those below because they’re beneath them. When Goreng tries to talk to the people below him, Trimagasi tells him not to talk to them because they are beneath him. I found myself thinking these types of artificial traps we fall into in the real world.
This movie is gripping. It’s though provoking. It’s challenging. If you’re looking for that kind of movie it’s currently streaming on Netflix and it’s worth your time. Check it out if you can stomach the rough patches.
It’s my cup of tea. A-