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Home > ‘Society of the Snow’ (2023): A Review

‘Society of the Snow’ (2023): A Review

'Society of the Snow' (2023): A Review

A Heart-Wrenching Dramatization of the 1972 Andes Flight Disaster

It’s not often that a good survival film comes out that causes the viewer to fall into repeating existential crises. Society of the Snow is a thrilling adventure based on the real events of the 1972 Andes Flight Disaster, which led the surviving passengers to experience the worst hardships of the Andes Mountain Range. Directed by J. A. Bayona and produced by Mision de Audaces Films and Netflix, the now-streaming feat of human resistance was released September 9th, 2023 at the 80th Venice International Film Festival (as stated on the La Biennale Di Venezia official site). Based on the Pablo Vierci book of the same name, audiences are witness to the true tales of the survivors on the big screen. 

A Trip of Tragedy 

The film begins with the narration of Numa Turcatti (played by Enzo Vogrincic according to IMDb) introducing the audience to the Uruguayan rugby team and their loved ones as they prepare for the chartered flight to Santiago, Chile for a match. Vibrant colors of greens, reds, and blues brighten the screen, which would become absent for the bulk of the film. There is no smooth transition from the lively comfort of excited loved ones to the plane crash. Though the scene of the initial crash lasts only around four minutes, it feels as though it’s a nightlong nightmare. The film then follows the survivors as they desperately battle through starvation, hypothermia, infection, avalanches, and tough decisions as they realize the only nutrients that can help them to survive is from their fallen comrades.

At first, a two-and-a-half hour film about survivors in a snowy setting seems dull and boring. However, this film becomes a nice surprise as each scene releases both new solutions and new problems for the former flight passengers. The cramped insides of the broken plane and the neverending valley of Andes snow creates a secluded and lonely atmosphere. Despite the usage of the same location for most of the film, the scenes continue feeling dynamic as the survivors constantly recreate their shelters after avalanches and morbid circumstances. Viewers are left feeling as helpless as the characters as they are forced to watch the dozens of passengers fight for their will to live with a pacing that keeps attention. Between waiting to be rescued and attempting to find their own escape, the remaining characters of the story keep their faith long enough to escape in the end. 

How to Act as a Survivor

It surely can’t be easy for actors to not only portray real individuals but to also portray real survivors during the hardest part of their lives. Yet, the cast of this film did an amazing job at staying respectful to the innocents while yanking empathy from the viewers. Enzo Vogrincic plays Numa Turcatti, the 24-year-old “leader” of the group who keeps his friends calm and collected during the worst of their trials. Though he is depicted as the main character of the film, Society of the Snow focuses its attention on many of the survivors as each one of them go through their own personal and shared battles. It’s hard for one to imagine the trauma of such a disaster, but Vogrincic plays his part well as the character who walks the audience through the little details of the experience. He’s concise, clear, and mournful through the entirety of the film.

'Society of the Snow' (2023): A Review
Matias Recalt, Agustin Pardella, and Andy Pruss | Image courtesy of Mision de Audaces Films and Netflix

Matias Recault and Agustin Pardella play the parts of the two survivors Roberto Canessa and Nando Parrado, who journey to Chile in search of help. Both actors play perhaps the strongest characters who stay stoic and hopeful for much of the movie. Fernando Contingiani is also a worthy mention, playing the part of Arturo Nogueira, a bedridden passenger who gives a heart-wrenching monologue three-quarters of the way into the film. All in all, the cast gave everything they had into representing the stages of mourning and attempts at healing that those who survived the real crash went through. Despite all of this, the characters are admittedly a tad difficult to follow since the audience does not hear many of their names and properly meets individuals only after the plane crashes. Though it makes sense for the narrator to not know every passenger, it leaves the viewer to struggle figuring out who is who, especially in the dark, snowy atmosphere. 

When the Setting Affects Emotion 

Regardless of the fact that a bulk of the film takes place in the worst snowy environment imaginable, the cinematography is one of the most intriguing parts. The dichotomy between the warm lights and sets of the beginning of the film and the cold secludedness of the crash site emphasizes the shock of the characters’ lives turning upside down. The costumes become worn and makeup becomes harsher as the passengers are exposed to injury and frostbite. The oranges, whites, and yellows of the sun and of fire bring lost warmth to scenes, such as when they believe they are being found or when they get their radio to work. The camera flashes from close-ups to extreme long shots that force the viewer to connect with the characters’ isolation. It is rare that the soundtrack becomes known except for happier scenes when the crew are finding ways to enjoy themselves. However, each time a kindness is shown, some circumstance rips it away.

There is a particular scene in the beginning half of the film when the surviving passengers are debating on cannibalizing their fallen loved ones in order to live through the coming days. As a very morbid topic already, there is a heaviness that clings to the air. No music plays but the sounds of the snow and wind outside the broken plane cabin. The cameras angle oddly in diagonals to attempt to view all the survivors cramped for warmth. The entirety of the film holds an ebbing and flowing tension, but it is this scene specifically that the moral pressure can be felt through the screen for the first time. Aside from the beauty of the cinematography shown in this film, however, it is to be noted that some of its scenes are so dark that it is hard to tell which character the viewer is seeing.

Final Rating 

Though some may expect this film to be another throwaway survival thriller, Society of the Snow is a masterpiece of tension, awareness, and near perfected mise-en-scene. Despite the somewhat rushed introduction of characters and the occasional too dark lighting of scenes, the film captures every second of attention in an adventure that is enough adrenaline to last for weeks. Streaming now on Netflix, this is definitely a film for viewers to recommend. As for rewatching, perhaps wait for the nightmares to leave in the next few days after.

'Society of the Snow' (2023): A Review
Agustin Pardella | Image courtesy of Mision de Audaces Films and Netflix

Society of the Snow (2023) Official Netflix Trailer

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With a bachelor's degree in Film and Media Studies from Arizona State University, Ashley has a passion for the history of filmmaking and how audiences share a relationship with publicized media. Her love for the horror genre as well as feminist themes runs deep.

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Cailen Fienemann is a current student at Le Moyne College pursuing her BA in English and Communications with a film studies minor and a creative writing concentration.  Though uncertain about her career end-goals, any job that allows her to write is a cherished one indeed.