Class Divide and Allegories of Dystopia

Stratification, or class divide, no longer seems to be a glaring blemish on our part. It doesn’t even seem to stick out as an imperfection like the nose on our faces. Everyone, more or less, seems to have accepted it as a part of our society.

With the world hit with a pandemic, it is in times like these the ‘upper class’ realise how much they need the ‘lower class’. It is in times like these, movies have assumed the role of socioeconomic journalism. There are three movies which have highlighted this particular societal issue and have dared to mock capitalism on its face.

Parasite, everyone’s heard of it winning the Oscars, has a dichotomy of two halves. The first half of the film is laid back and chugs along gently, slowly building up to the rest of it nobody can possibly anticipate. It symbolises class divide as those ‘living in the basement’ being in a parasitic relationship with the rich and elite ‘upstairs’. It won’t be just the chilling uncertainty that discomforts you but also the obvious class oppression at free will.

Snowpiercer, another social documentary masterpiece by Bong Joon-Ho starring Chris Evans, is set in 2030 when the world has frozen in the post-global warming impact and the passengers of a train are the only survivors left. The ones at the front section are the rich and privileged ones while the ones at the back are left to suffer in misery. They live on protein blocks and chaos fearing death every second. A rebellion was 18-years in the offing. Did they succeed? Suffice to say Bong Joon-Ho boggles the mind again.

Netflix’s most recent sci-fi horror film The Platform is ostensibly the most pertinent out of the triad given the situation the world finds itself in. With a dystopian premise, this Spanish flick is set in a futuristic vertical prison having over 200 levels. With two cellmates on each level and a slab of food descending through all levels, pausing only for two minutes a day, survival isn’t the easiest of all tasks.

With random assigning of new levels every month, greed takes over not knowing how the next month might look like. The food on the slab is such that it suffices every cellmate but there hardly ever lasts anything for prisoners beyond level 48. The ones above treat the ones below as downtrodden and leave them starving to death. It largely represents different strata of society where the ‘higher’ ones hog and hoard surplus to their requirements leaving the ones less fortunate starving to death who often have to resort to cannibalism.

A few concerned cell mates ask the others to ration their food and call for a “spontaneous sense of solidarity”. Behind this alliteration lies a deeper message. If everyone took only what they needed, there would be enough left for others down in the pecking order. However such principles ring hollow unless a rebellion threatens to bring upon a change.

Director Gaztelu-Urrutia told Digital Spy: “At the end of the day, the movie isn’t going to change the world, but it may change the viewer. The film doesn’t portray anyone as particularly bad or good; it’s all about asking what would you do if you found yourself in level 200, or in level 48.”

He further added, “It’s about the limits of your own solidarity and how easy it is to be a good person when you’re comfortable in level 10, but how hard it is to do so when at level 182.”

Every character in the movie represents a different idea from the outside world ranging from idealists to bureaucrats and eventually the ones on the extreme ends of the class divide. In the current scenario the world finds itself in, the romanticisation of the quarantine is merely a class privilege as the wide chasm of such a divide is unprecedented in a pandemic nobody is spared from.

If you haven’t watched these movies yet, watch them now, not because of the excess time on your hands but because of how relevant they are now more so than ever.