Friday, October 13, 1972. Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571, en route from Uruguay to Chile, crashed in the Andes Mountains. Of the total number of people on the plane – 5 crew members and 40 passengers (including 19 members of the Old Christians Club rugby team) – only 16 survived. 72 days full of resilience, friendship and hope.

This tragic story has served as the plot for J.A. Bayona‘s new film: Society of the Snow. Not only did it inspire this Spanish director, but it also inspired Frank Marshall for his film Alive: 1993 movie featuring John Malkovich and Ethan Hawke. Both stories have something else in common: they are based on books. Alive is based on the book of the same name by Piers Paul Read, while the film Society of the Snow is based on Society of the Snow: The Definitive Account of the World’s Greatest Survival Story by Pablo Vierci.

A tale of survival

The story raises challenging questions about morality, ethics, and the limits of survival in extreme situations. It’s a film that incites reflection and debate on profound human issues. Despite its frightening nature, this true story carries a significant message of hope. It illustrates how people come together to help one another in times of need, emphasizing the importance of love, compassion and empathy. The narrative underscores the vital role of community and societal support in overcoming daunting challenges, such as those encountered in the desolate setting of the Andes. Many survivors have highlighted the value of communal bonds, affirming the necessity of a society unified by the common goal of helping one another.

source: Netflix

Bayona went for actors who weren’t exactly big names, especially in Spain, but they really delivered stellar performances — Enzo Vogrincic, Agustín Pardella, and Matías Recalt, to name a few. Matías Recalt even snagged the title of Best New Actor at the recent Goya Awards. And let’s talk about those improvised scenes during filming — they really showcased the cast’s professionalism. Bayona‘s skillful direction earned Society of the Snow 12 Goya Awards and two Oscar nominations, making it the third most awarded film in Spanish cinema. Despite all the tough hurdles during production — lesser-known actors and very little snow, among others — the film truly shines as a standout achievement in the world of cinema, both artistically and technically.

The visual poetry of Society of the Snow

Pedro Luque is the mastermind behind the camera work. He also won the Goya Award for his stellar cinematography. This Uruguayan director manages to achieve cinematography that intricately weaves together the film’s visual narrative, leveraging the natural environment of the Andes to stunning effect. Through sweeping shots of the mountainous landscapes, viewers are immersed in the vastness and beauty of the setting, while also feeling the looming threat of desolation and danger faced by the characters. Additionally, the film skillfully employs lighting to accentuate the emotional states of the characters, from the harsh glare of the sun on snow to the ominous shadows within the crashed plane.

source: Netflix

Furthermore, the framing and composition techniques employed in the film heighten the sense of claustrophobia and isolation experienced by the characters. Tight shots and low angles intensify feelings of vulnerability and desperation, drawing viewers deeper into the characters’ struggles. Meanwhile, a cold and stark color palette, dominated by shades of gray, white, and blue, underscores the harshness of the environment and the characters’ dire circumstances. These elements, combined with expert editing and pacing, sustain tension and suspense throughout the narrative.

Society of the Snow delivers a powerful narrative that transcends the screen, prompting audiences to contemplate the depths of human endurance and compassion in the face of adversity. Through the lens of survival in the Andes, the film challenges viewers to confront moral dilemmas and the essential role of community in overcoming unimaginable challenges. J.A. Bayona‘s meticulous direction and the stellar performances of the ensemble cast, including breakout star Matías Recalt, elevate this gripping tale to cinematic greatness. With its stunning cinematography, Society of the Snow immerses audiences in a world of despair and, ultimately, hope—a testament to the resilience of the human spirit in the most unforgiving of landscapes.

Society of the Snow is available on Netflix!

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