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Review Society of the Snow (2023)

Society of the Snow (2023)

Society of the Snow Roger Ebert’s reflection on the 1993 cinematic portrayal of the harrowing ordeal of the Andes survivors—”There are some stories you simply can’t tell”—might still hold a kernel of truth today. The tragic saga of Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571, crashing into the Andes mountains on October 13, 1972, has been narrated through various lenses, with differing degrees of narrative success. The latest attempt by J.A. Bayona in “Society of the Snow,” inspired by Pablo Vierci’s 2009 book, embarks on a journey to retell this chilling tale, sidestepping the pitfalls encountered by previous adaptations, notably Frank Marshall‘s 1993 movie. Despite Bayona’s efforts, the elusive essence of the story, as Ebert suggested, remains somewhat intangible.

The narrative plunges viewers into the devastating crash that instantly claimed most passengers’ lives, leaving the survivors to face unimaginable choices in a brutal fight for survival. The group’s descent into cannibalism, their entrapment under an avalanche, and the eventual, desperate trek of two young rugby players across the mountains to find help are recounted with a rawness that underscores the sheer will to live.

Society of the Snow

Bayona opts for a brisk introduction to the characters, focusing on the collective rather than individual backstories, perhaps reflecting how disaster strips away individuality, revealing core human instincts. The crash sequence, captured with harrowing realism, sets the stage for a survival story where the vast, indifferent beauty of the Andes serves as both a backdrop and antagonist. Cinematographer Pedro Luque’s work accentuates the perilous majesty of the landscape, emphasizing the insignificance and vulnerability of the survivors against nature’s grandeur.

Unlike Marshall’s interpretation, which veered towards the spiritual, “Society of the Snow” adopts a more grounded perspective. Leadership dynamics evolve in response to the unfolding crisis, with faith and hope gradually giving way to pragmatic survival strategies. The film chronicles the shift in leadership from early attempts to maintain order and morale to the pragmatic, courageous decision by Roberto and Nando to seek rescue, underscoring a theme prevalent in tales of survival: the indomitable human spirit.

Society of the Snow

The passage of time is marked, the fallen are memorialized, yet the connection to the characters feels somewhat distant, echoing Ebert’s earlier observation that the essence of the tragedy eludes full cinematic capture. The story’s grip lies in its exploration of human resilience and the psychological fortitude required to choose survival against all odds, a theme resonant in many survival narratives.

“Society of the Snow,” while not explicitly delving into these philosophical depths, provides a canvas for these existential and ethical dilemmas to emerge. The enduring allure of the Flight 571 story is not just in the harrowing details of survival, but in the reflection it prompts within us: the questioning of our own resolve in the face of unimaginable adversity. Bayona’s film, through its visual storytelling and thematic focus, invites viewers to ponder these profound questions, even if it doesn’t directly articulate them.

Society of the Snow | Official Trailer | Netflix

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