Directed by JA Bayona, Society of the Snow is one of the best and most impactful survival films of the lot, and there are multiple reasons for making that statement. There have been some good survival films that we have witnessed in the past, and we do not have any doubt in saying that Society of the Snow has all those elements that would allow it to be included in that list of honorable mentions. There are many aspects that account for a thrilling experience when you are watching a film of such a genre, and over the years, permutations and combinations of these tactics have paid off for many filmmakers big time. It is always a challenge when you decide to make a film like 127 Hours, Cast Away, or Trapped, as the chances of it not striking a chord with the audience due to a single location shoot, a lack of intensity, or the mere mundanity of being stuck in one place, are very high. But filmmakers now and again have proved how impactful it could be if you have the right concoction in place.
Society of the Snow reminds me of an Indian modern-day classic, Trapped, directed by Vikramaditya Motwane. Unlike any other film, the protagonist here was not stuck in the wilderness but was locked in an apartment. The tension, the unease, and the hopelessness moved us in ways and means that we hadn’t imagined. Society of the Snow has a similar effect, but in addition to that, it adds certain elements that we personally have never seen in a film of this genre, and it took us by surprise. The film is inspired by true events that took place in 1972 when a flight from Montevideo to Santiago crashed in the Andes mountains, and for 72 days, the survivors were stuck in those extreme weather conditions without food or water.
Based on Pablo Vierci’s “La Sociedad de La Nieve,” the Netflix survival film is a story of resilience, and it is an ode to all those who literally fought with death, defied the odds, and came out victorious. It pays homage to all those who couldn’t make it out alive and tells us what they went through in those last moments and how they are still alive in the memories of all those who survived.
Generally, in survival films, we do not get to witness humorous conversations or quirky dialogues, as most of the time, the protagonist is there all by himself, but here we witnessed something different. The survivors, even when stuck in such a harrowing situation, didn’t forget to focus on the lighter side of things. It was a kind of respite from all the constant discomfort, and together with the characters, even the audience forgot for a moment what kind of situation they were stuck in. One moment, you are terrified to see their plight and the kind of adversity they are facing, and another moment, you cannot help but smile at what they just said. Obviously, in such scenes, creative liberties are generally taken, and the director or writer adds their own flavor to it, but the conversations seem so organic, and it all flows so well together that we wouldn’t have been surprised if we were told that something like that happened in real life too. It was amazing to see these survivors trapped in the valley of death as the shadow of their doomed fate loomed above them, and yet they found a way to bring a smile to each other’s faces.
You cannot help but marvel at the cinematography by Pedro Luque, as it is because of his technique of alternating between close-ups and wide angles that you feel that discomfort and the monstrosity of the obstacle, i.e., the Andes, that lays in front of the survivors. The camera movement when the crashed plane gets embedded under the snow is just phenomenal, and you can literally feel how claustrophobic it would have been for someone stuck inside it. What Luque does best is that he creates a conflicting image where, on one side, in the wide-angle shots, you cannot help but get mesmerized by the sheer beauty of those snow-capped peaks, and in the very next moment, you are witnessing the closeups of a survivor scavenging meat from the bodies of the people who have died. The enormity of the picturesque landscape humbles you, and it makes you realize how badly the odds were against those who were struck there.
Some people might be of the opinion that the editing by Jaume Marti could have been a bit tighter, but I would like to disagree here. Every frame told a story, and not even once did I personally feel that something could have been removed from the scheme of things. It was imperative to take one step at a time, and the time frame allowed the buildup to happen. Had it not been there, the ecstasy of winning and overcoming the obstacle wouldn’t have come at the end of the film.
As far as performances are concerned, the entire unit has done a fabulous job. Now, considering there were so many people involved, everybody needed to imbibe those small nuances that could allow the viewers to be hooked on their journey. The dilemma on the faces of the actors when they questioned their conscience if they would be willing to eat human meat to keep themselves alive or the joy when they heard that sound of helicopter blades was just done to perfection. Also, it has to be mentioned here that, to show the deteriorating physical condition of the survivors, the makeup department has outdone itself. It accentuated the performances even more and made them look extremely realistic. The sculptors, the concept artists, and the entire art department have made sure that their work elevates the narrative even more and brings out that feeling that the director wants his audience to have.
Society of the Snow is the kind of film that you would like to watch in theaters, and we expect this film to get a lot of appreciation and love in the coming award season. The film is going to make you cry; it is going to make you laugh; at times, it’s going to make you hopeful and, at times, extremely melancholic; but most of all, it will make you realize that you need to be grateful for what you have.