Society of the Snow: A Tribute to Survivors

Society of the Snow

A true story can be impactful when is made with care.

It’s normal for me to expect something tragic when watching a movie based on a true story. We see portrayals of how real struggled either with their demons in all the different biopics we often see. Or we can either see the protagonists confront the demon in others. We saw it recently in The Iron Claw, basically a film about the effects of bad parenting. J.A. Bayona’s Society of the Snow is a whole different animal. It’s man vs nature. 

In this film, we follow young men from an Uruguayan rugby team from the day before their trip to Chile to what we all know what happens afterward. The Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 crashed, which either ended their lives or changed them forever. Though the plane crash happens 20 minutes into the movie, it doesn’t feel rushed. For those first 20 minutes, we get to meet the kids. We see them mess with each other, talk about girls, and hang out. We see excited college kids being college kids inside the plane. 

Then, Tragedy Hits

Therefore, we care about them from the moment the first turbulence happens. And we feel the pain in every second of the incident unfolds in front of our eyes. The way all the details are shown would’ve been blockbuster material. Or another cynical disaster movie. However, this is different. We know this accident happened, and people were stranded on a glacier for 70 days. 

This is just the first 30 minutes, two hours to go. Buckle up cause watching a plane crash should be the least of your worries. And I mean it in the best way cause this is going to be two of the most cathartic hours you’ll ever have watching a movie. It doesn’t hold back in showing all the details about this agonizing experience.

The Filmmaker’s Approach

In this interview with The Hollywood Reporter, B.A. Bayona said: “We shot in a ski station in Spain but went three times to the Andres to shoot scenes.” An immense effort from the director and the entire crew under the “risk of avalanches all the time.” As described by Bayona in the same interview. It’s almost like they wanted a tragedy within the making of a tragedy film to happen. 

They lost a lot of weight — we shot chronologically. What I think is very beautiful about what happened is that they created their own society, taking care of each other.”

J.A. Bayona

Maybe it didn’t happen. However, Bayona went further to make the experience more realistic with the cast, consisting of young first-timers. He describes in the THR interview, “We had this bunch of kids making their first film. And what they went through was so hard — we rehearsed for two months and then shot for about five months. So they spent seven months away from home, very far away, and they went through a small portion of what the survivors went through — the cold, the hunger. They lost a lot of weight — we shot chronologically. What I think is very beautiful about what happened is that they created their own society, taking care of each other.”

This sounds like a mistreatment typical of all-timers like Kubrick or Hitchcock. But, in addition to putting young people in danger and pushing method acting to the limit, it’s a sign of respect to the survivors and deceased. The movie is based on the book of the same name by Pablo Vierci, who has known many of the victims since childhood and includes accounts from all 16 survivors. 

Comparisons to Alive

The comparisons to the 1993 movie Alive are inevitable. After all, both are based on the same events. But, while Alive is a film that probably had limitations from studio executives and Ethan Hawke kept looking as beautiful and clean as in The Before Trilogy, Society of the Snow is crude and visceral. In a chronologically filmed movie, real kids picked in Uruguay and Argentina get dirtier and thinner. 

Property of Netflix


This could’ve been another survival movie narrated by the numbers. Just another Oscar bait to have in theaters for two weeks and then release on Netflix. However, the filmmaker cared about everything to be as authentic and harrowing as possible. There’s no sugarcoating. The characters got scared, cried, ate human flesh, and celebrated survival at all the right moments. 

Society of the Snow is not an Alive remake. Neither it is just another melodramatic survivor film. It’s a tribute to the survivors. 

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