Society Of The Snow
After a little break from our coverage of the Foreign Films nominated for the Academy Awards this year, I am back with another review from the same category. With that, I have finished watching the new Spanish film Society Of The Snow which is streaming on Netflix which is Spain’s Official Submission to the Academy Awards this year. Survival drama as a genre has always been an intriguing one with some of the standout films being Cast Away and 127 hours. But at the same time, it is also a tricky proposition given its setting with the drama usually stationed at a single location. As a result, there is always a risk of getting repetitive with the writing or bogged down by the setting. The idea is always to present an eventful narrative while keeping the viewers on tenterhooks, thereby always invested in its characters. And with Society Of The Snow, I did have high hopes as I ventured into the film that is touted to be in the Top 5 this year. So then, does Society Of The Snow manage to impress, let’s find out.
Story & Screenplay
Based on true events and a book by the same name, Society Of The Snow follows the story of a Uruguayan Rugby team whose plane crashes in the Andes Mountains while being on their way to Chile. The story here accounts an incredible tale of survival that lasted over 70 days in wilderness. And the drama here offers a claustrophobic take on the entire incident that was so gut-wrenching and painful to watch that it made you a silent spectator in its setting, as you closely observe the characters wilt in the snow. The screenplay standing at a length of almost 150 minutes might seem daunting but it is one of the most eventful screenplays of the genre that makes you gasp for your breath at various junctures of the narrative. It is intense, harsh and quite overwhelming thus making for an intriguing and incredible watch.
The drama begins with the assemblance of the principal characters who are shown to be Rugby players. Almost everyone is of a similar date range and as most youth would do, they plan a short vacation for the weekend with their friends and family. This until tragedy strikes, killing most of them and leaving the survivors to fend for themselves. The writers do not dwell too much in the characterization and instead choose to get to the tragedy almost immediately, and that creative decision does land beautifully. In a scene in the aircraft, you as a viewer have already begun to fear the worst even before the actual tragedy takes place. The mood in the camp changes from being playful to suddenly fearing for their lives, and that increases the intensity of the drama to another level. And still, to hold the attention of the viewers by indulging in the respective survival acts, at times the weather, other times the setting painted a fearful and claustrophobic picture that was worth a million nightmares.
The proceedings are gritty and intriguing particularly because of the setting that had hope buried underneath the snow as well. The drama did unfold at multiple psychological levels with the survivors having to reside amidst the dead bodies in hope that help will come their way in any shape or form. It was at this critical juncture wherein the writing could have got repetitive but instead, I wasn’t distracted from the drama for even a second. The writers kept churning out one event after another by throwing in multiple challenges to the characters over the course of multiple days in wilderness. And one of their major challenge was that of survival without food, a discussion that lead to an interesting conflict of faith versus morality. The idea of having to survive by eating the meat from dead bodies of their loved ones was a rather interesting subplot that unraveled the basic fundamentals of faith and where to draw the line.
The uncertainty of the terrain added as a fuel for the drama even at certain predictable beats of the screenplay as the body count began to rise. But you do know that the writing has peaked when it forces you to root for its characters to an extent that it makes you feel letdown once they are gone. And that is what happened with the narrator who is usually the end survivor but the writers use him only as a voice while killing of his character in a shocking turn of events that was a masterstroke if you look at it from the point of view of the viewers who would be taken aback. The challenge of setting the drama at a single location did not hamper the film but instead added layers of claustrophobia to the proceedings. Even the jubilant final act of the survivors being rescued had a feeling of trauma that was used as an after-taste that lingered on for a while after the drama had ended. It was a screenplay to savour and a landmark as far as the survival genre is concerned.
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are conversational with some interesting pieces of interaction that will question your beliefs too while making you think of your decisions if found in a similar situation. The BGM is outstanding, always rising to the beats of the drama without manipulating the viewers to feel a certain way. The cinematography is incredibly good capturing some beautiful frames of the landscape while balancing it with tight close-ups that will evoke a sense of claustrophobia in you too. The editing is crisp and sharp wherein the length of the drama never bothered me. Director J.A. Bayona has excelled in the drama and how. The creative decision to introduce the tragedy early on without focusing on its characters was a great move, given that the tragedy was the milestone event here and it wouldn’t have mattered even if the existing set of characters was replaced by a few others. But to stage an incredible tale of survival was a huge challenge wherein the director passed with flying colours. The direction was absolutely brilliant.
The performances are incredibly good by the ensemble cast. Paula Baldini as Lilliana and Alphonsina Carrocio as Susy are first rate despite a limited screen time and they make their presence felt. Francisco Romero as Strauch, Andy Pruss as Roy, Rocco Posca as Moncho, Rafael Federman as Equardo, Agustin Della Corte as Tintin, Simon Hempe as Coche, Benjamin Segura as Vasco and Fernando Contigiani as Arturo are excellent and the expressions that each one brings to the table is indeed fearful. Estaban Kukuriczka as Fito has a terrific screen presence in an overall job done really well. Diego Vegezzi as Marcelo is incredibly good as well. Matias Recalt as Roberto is excellent and manages to impress with his phenomenal act. Agustin Pardella as Nando and Enzo Vogrincic as Numa deliver heartfelt acts that will really make you shed a tear for them. All other actors are excellent as well.
Spain’s Official Entry to the Academy Awards this year, Society Of The Snow is an incredible survival drama filled with grit, determination and trauma that accounts for a haunting story for the ages. The drama comes with my highest recommendation. Available on Netflix and Highly Highly Recommended.