BY ELLIOT LINES JANUARY 9, 2024
Whether you were aware or not, the story of the Andes flight disaster and it’s survivors is just as unbelievable the Nth time of hearing it as it was the first. Alive (1993) was my first introduction to the story (many years after it’s release), with the film getting a varying levels of reception. Society of the Snow is an adaptation of Pablo Verci’s book, of the same name, which documents the accounts of all 16 survivors, with the film hugely benefiting from having these first hand accounts to work from.
The flight of a rugby team crashes on a glacier in the Andes. The few passengers who survive the crash find themselves in one of the world's toughest environments to survive.
The story itself is a harrowing one. A rugby team, their friends, family and supporters are involved in a terrible plane crash, landing in a place that a normal mind cannot conceive the challenges that could be faced. Freezing temperature, no sign of life, terrible weather and zero hope. These are just some of the troubles these people had to face, and not only for a short time, they were there for 72 days.
The initial crash sets the scene the whole film will follow. It’s an impactful and realistic depiction, where bodies are flying, bones are crushing, giving these people barely any hope to begin with. The harsh environment they find themselves in is clear from the start, the snow-covered mountains, where they are just a needle in a haystack. This group come across all sorts of obstacles, even after they find themselves "settled", the mountain throws an avalanche their way burying them and the hope they may of still had. Society of the Snow isn’t afraid to depict the hard choices these characters had to make, with hunger being one of those. In moments of desperation survival instincts must kick in, and the film toys with the hard individual choices each one of these survivors had to make.
Society of the Snow treats it’s characters as a collective rather than individuals. We have some narration from Numa Turcatti (Enzo Vogrincic), and a few of the other characters take a lead role within the group, but we get little to no character development of them as individuals. Before and after the disaster we spend little time in their lives, the film moves fairly quickly into the crash and then no time is spent on the aftermath. There are good performances across the board from an unknown cast that emphasise the hardship, difficult decisions and the difficulty of keeping faith that they may survive this ordeal.
For such a unbelievable and horrible story, the setting is quite beautiful and Society of the Snow takes full advantage of that. The cinematography shows the grand scale of the environment they have found themselves in, simply shining a light on the difficulty of the situation. In one moment, a small amount of hope arrives when in search for help, yet once these characters peak over the other side of the cliff, it shows how far they may have to go for any chance of help.
Society of the Snow is an emotional depiction of a terrible tragedy, that isn’t afraid to tackle the toughest moments of this story head on and puts survival at the forefront. Using a mostly unknown cast, it doesn’t require you to know the characters to feel the pain and anguish they are going through, the emotion is all conveyed in the events and in the unforgiving environment of these mountains.