They say that it is much safer to travel by plane than it is by car as there isn’t exactly a lot of stuff to run into up there. But in the defense of those with aviophobia, you also aren’t likely to be stranded in a place that makes rescue difficult, like the ocean or the Andes Mountains, if you get into a car accident.
The likelihood of never being found rises exponentially if you crash while flying, a horrifying fate that nearly befell the passengers of Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 in 1972.
Their story is one that has been told previously (most famously in 1993’s Alive, starring John Malkovich and Ethan Hawke), but it is hard to imagine it being told better than in Society of the Snow, a Spanish movie that premiered at the 80th Venice International Film Festival in 2023 and was recently released internationally on Netflix. As with most (if not all) foreign films, the story is best experienced in its original language with English subtitles rather than Netflix’s default of dubbing over lines, the better to convey the raw emotion that the actors portray at heart-wrenching levels.
This impressive cast is mostly made up of newcomers to the industry if Wikipedia is to be believed, a fact that is not easily apparent with the outstanding quality of the work they put in.
I would be lying if I said I didn’t often get confused as to who was who—I don’t recall any actual character names, but I don’t think they were “kid who kind of looks like Adam Driver” or “guy who resembles a kid who wasn’t very nice to me in high school.” But the loss of each one is still felt heavily as the struggle unfolds, a fact that speaks to the quality of the script, acting, and directing.
Society of the Snow does not shy away from some pretty grim subject matter, nor does it try to sugarcoat horrific topics like cannibalizing the bodies of the deceased in extreme survival situations. It isn’t afraid to get gross, in other words, and I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone, especially those who are squeamish or can’t stand the sounds of people crying out in agony and sheer terror.
The cannibalization mention may seem like a spoiler, but everything in this film is fairly predictable: Society of the Snow ultimately touches on most of the themes you would expect of a movie of its ilk. But that is not a thing I can hold against a film that is based on actual events, of course.
In the end, the unflinching exploration of the ugly depths that these people sunk to helps to make the heights of their triumphs feel all the higher for it. Because at the center of Society of the Snow is the simple message that hope and the human spirit are resilient things, and by the end of the film I felt not only exhausted and emotionally drained but also elated. Just don’t put me in an airplane anytime soon.
Society of the Snow is now available on Netflix.
Article written by TJ Reid
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