Saturday 6 January 2024

Society of the Snow (2023)

This is the retold true story of the aircraft disaster suffered by a Uruguayan rugby team whilst flying over Andes in South America in 1972. It is some years since I've seen the 1993 telling in the film Alive, starring Ethan Hawke and Josh Hamilton, but was very interested to see how this one presented the harrowing tale.

It's a Netflix production made in Spanish, so it's dubbing or subtitles for us, directed by J A Bayona, mostly famously for me doing the same job creating The Impossible (2012), another 'disaster' movie.

The rugby team are on their way to Chile from Uruguay when bad weather causes their aircraft to hit severe turbulence resulting in it hitting one of the mountains in the peaks of the Andes. The plane comes crashing down in a well-orchestrated for film sequence, most realistic, traumatic and believable as a reconstruction. There are 40 on board plus crew, many of whom die on impact or shortly after.

The rest of the people are now facing the winter months (between October and December) where night time temperatures plummet to life-threatening levels. They have part of the aircraft left to shelter in and eventually find a radio to hear about what the authorities are doing. After a few days, they know that the authorities are searching for them - and even see planes flying overhead but with no way of attracting their attention, near-invisible on snow and ice. More people are also dying of cold-related issues, regardless of their fitness as sportspeople, however they try to help each other - some doctors in training. Eventually they also hear on the radio that the search has been called off.

I'm sure that you know the famously uneasy dilemma the people faced as they start to starve to death and realise that the only source of food they have around them with which to stand a chance of survival, is the bodies of the dead. These scenes are handled with sensitivity, not gory exposure, showing how those who had a good idea how to do this went about it. I'm sure that you will also know that eventually they decide that nobody is coming to rescue them, so they have to make it to civilisation themselves somehow and a party is sent out to do so.

The people survived in the end for over two months, making do, facing various catastrophes as they came along to make things worse - and the aforementioned ultimate taboo which is the last thing anyone would want to face, crisis or not. Well, unless you're Hannibal Lektor I suppose! The acting by the whole cast is excellent, realistically portrayed to the last person, the storytelling is gripping, though often slow, the suspense and tension is loaded on, music significant and the scenery is simply gorgeous.

It really is an outstanding piece of work and well worth the viewing for the two and a half hours. It's incredibly moving in scene-upon-scene, but especially at the end when real photos and footage is used to show how those who survived did so. The human spirit prevailing is the theme of course, and challenges to one's self about how we'd cope (or not) given such an outlandish situation and need to consider survival. Do watch it. I'm off to watch Alive again after all these years and compare.

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