Film Critic Cristina Hermosa praises Netflix’s Society of the Snow – a startlingly powerful thriller based on equally powerful events

International Law student with a great adoration for any form of literature, the sky, football and my Faith
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Society of the Snow (2024) is a movie simultaneously based on the true story of the 1972 Uruguayan flight disaster in the Andes mountains and on Pablo Vierci’s book, La sociedad de la nieve (2009). Captivatingly, this true story is brought to life as a thriller showing what raw human survival truly involves.

The movie starts with the narration of one of the deceased, Numa Turcatti (Enzo Vogrincic). An easily overlooked technique, the narration functions as the voice of the dead; never to be forgotten. This is an essential aim of this feature. Early scenes illustrate the survivors’ previous roles as rugby players. We see their contagious joyful celebrations; a normality we can easily recognise. The movie is really well paced from the start, quickly building up to the passengers eagerly boarding the plane, unaware of the awaiting tragedy.

The director, J. A. Bayona, also known for his masterpiece of a movie, The Impossible (2012), did really great at pacing different parts of the movie as was needed. The excruciatingly painful slow pace when depicting the survivors’ solitude in the snow, combined with the quick pace before and after really make it feel as though a viewer is trapped in the experience with them. With it, the soundtrack and beautifully realistic cinematography (the soft colours of the sunset against the harsh cold) help to draw out the film’s aim of capturing every human experience possible; certainly doing so successfully.

From the moment of the crash, the muted sounds ensure that you focus on what you see. Experiencing the film through the survivors’ eyes, we relive the plane crash along with them. The lack of sound feels like a pause at the door dividing life and death, where death seems much more merciful than entrapment in the Andes for the coming 72 days. It is a climactic point before the inevitable suffering, and yet the first words on the morning of the crash are ‘we are alive!’ From its beginning, the movie pulls my heart strings into tangles – yet to become undone.

From its beginning, the movie pulls my heart strings into tangles – yet to become undone

The scripting of the movie is also astonishing; creating scenes, actions and dialogue that feels so real – and really immersed me into their story. Without pointing to a single actor, simply because it is impossible to do so, the swift emotional changes from loud laughs and mockery aimed at passengers who initially showed signs of fear, to, ever so quickly, pressed lips, widened eyes and tightened grips to one another. It is breath-taking how human emotions can fluctuate so easily and the actors did brilliantly at depicting what you and I are capable of feeling – all within the small timeframe of a second.

One of the scenes that really stuck with me is a scene in which the characters were buried within the skeleton of the plane under the snow, and amusingly offered poetic words to each other. One significant line is said by Arturo Nogueira (Fernando Contigiani): ‘As this tragedy unfolds, from my hammock I see capeless heroes, and though at times I am beaten by rage, being with you is a gift from life.’ The movie has many messages but this one is especially clear: to hold and cherish what you have for as long as your body allows. This message is further captured in the written piece holding Numa’s last words. In his fingers, the last thing he holds is his love for his newly made friends. And it reads: ‘There is no greater love than giving one’s life for friends (John 15:13)’. The film’s characters selflessly give it all for one another.

Society

A favourite prop of mine is the radio: usually a source of hope, but here the cause of an extinguished light. In this moment, everything shifts. The survivors’ words choke into silence by raging emotions, most of which are denial. Denial that rescue was no longer coming to save them. The inner turmoil beginning to develop within the passengers. The rawness in their cries for home, their mum, their life. The pleas for the person closest to them to hug them tighter. The desperation for a punch, a hit, or a slap as if any sort of pain might make their body offer warmth.

The chemistry between the actors really illustrates how the passengers became pillars to one another: united pillars in a society aiming for survival against deadly snow. On the topic of props, it is so wonderfully impactful to see how something as small as the pinpointing of a single pin on a map of mountain Andes can signify such finality. That the survivors made it far enough for life to be nearer to them than death. Little things like these makes you appreciate the movie so much more.

The feature only becomes more heartfelt when you realise that it was made with the participation of the actual survivors

The feature only becomes more heartfelt when you realise that it was made with the participation of the actual survivors. It makes the experience feel so much more real knowing that the truest version of the story has been brought into the cinematic world without being Hollywood-ified. This feature isn’t over-dramatized but rather shows a reality that most of us are fortunate enough to only experience onscreen.

Society of the Snow is a true masterpiece: an essential watch. The actors, most of whom had no previous theatrical experience at all, deserve all of the applause. Seeing new faces in the acting industry feels like a fresh gasp of air after ascending dreadful school stairs. Everyone involved in the movie has placed magic into every line and every scene. An old story is brought into the light, whilst also allowing a new generation of actors to be known. From tragedy comes triumph: just like the story of the Miracle of Andes.

 

Verdict:

Re-watching and taking in details I had previously missed was entirely worth it. You begin to feel what the characters feel, as if suffering along with them. The movie gives me a desperate need to hug those around me a little tighter. To hold myself a little tighter. And because of this, Society of the Snow is a must watch.

Rating: 10/10

 

Society of the Snow is available to stream now.

I also strongly recommend watching the behind the scenes, Society of the Snow: Who Were We on the Mountain? (2024), as well as trying to the book itself. This feature, its story, is one you cannot help but immerse yourself into from its very beginning.


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