Yes, Society of the Snow (La Sociedad de la Nieve) is an inspiring movie about survival against all odds and the power of the human spirit. But to be more specific, it’s a story about how in the darkest times, people find strength in each other.
It isn’t a new theme. There are many narratives centered around the power of love. One might even say it is the most common theme around. If anything, the thing that sets Society of the Snow apart is that the movie is based on a true story and there’s nothing romantic about the love at the center of this tale. Instead, Society of the Snow is about how sometimes, when it feels like you cannot take another step or another breath, the thing carrying you forward isn’t belief in a nebulous God, but in the friends who have been with you every step of the way.
The movie, which is based on the book La Sociedad de la Nieve by Pablo Vierci, recounts the story of the Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571, otherwise known as the Tragedy of the Andes or the Miracle of the Andes, depending on which part of the story you want to focus on. The plane, which carried a rugby team, family, and friends, crashed in the Andes mountains in 1972 with 45 people aboard. After 72 days, sixteen survivors were rescued after two of them walked out of the Andes to get help.
Directed by JA Bayona (renowned for another disaster movie, The Impossible), the movie boasts a cast of mostly unknown Uruguayan and Argentinian actors, speaking only in Spanish. It also features cameos from some of the real-life survivors, notably Fernando Parrado and Roberto Canessa, the two who walked out of the Andes over fifty years ago.
But Bayona takes great care not to make the narrative of Society of the Snow just a checklist of who survived or a description of how they did so. Instead, we get invested in the whole story of what happened to Flight 571 and how these men and women managed to make it to day seventy-two. The film builds its emotional resonance thanks, in part, to the inspired choice to make Numa Turcatti the narrator of this tale and partly due to the way the movie weaves individual stories with the greater narrative of survival.
La Sociedad de la Nieve has no heroes, even when it does. This is because everyone on that flight was a hero in their own way, and every story is worth telling. The book this movie is based on gives every one of the survivors their own chapter. The movie, in a way, does too. But it also manages to give most of the people who didn’t make it a chance to tell their own story.
“We were all important,” the voiceover at the end says, and it doesn’t feel like a platitude. Society of the Snow isn’t just the tale of the sixteen people who survived, it’s a story of forty-five people who got on that plane. Of their taking that next step, and the one after that, not just for themselves, but for their friends too. And it’s a story of what you lose and what you never really let go of.
Perhaps there’s inspiration to be found in that. At the very least, there’s a really good movie that will leave you thinking about what you would be willing to do, not just to survive, but to save the people you care about the most.
The Society of the Snow (La Sociedad de la Nieve) is available to stream on Netflix.