Latest is the ‘never-to-be-shown-as-an-inflight-movie-on-a-long-haul-flight’ is Society of the Snow the true story of the 1972 Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571, which had been chartered to fly a rugby team to Chile and crashed in the heart of the Andes. Only 29 of its 45 passengers survived the accident. Trapped in one of the most hostile and inaccessible environments on the planet, they have to resort to extreme measures to stay alive.
At the time and for some years later it was an infamous story though fifty years later it has been lost a little in the midst of time but there have been several dramatizations of the story perhaps the best known being the 1993 film ‘Alive’ directed by Frank Marshall and starring Ethan Hawke. This latest version is helmed by J A Bayona, no stranger to true life disaster movies having also directed 2012’s ‘The Impossible’ that was set around the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
So early on we get to know the rugby team, a bunch of twenty something students before they take the flight across the Alps and they quickly realize that something is not quite right with the journey moments before the plane crashes. We’ve had plenty of all too realistic plane crashes before but this is not sensationalized spectacle though there are moments to wince as limbs are snapped as the fuselage crashes and breaks up before coming to a stop in the middle of the Andes in the middle of winter. 19 of the passengers die on the crash and the other 29 are traumatized to varying degrees and there is hope of being rescued seemed negligible because if the crash didn’t kill them then the extreme cold would. And with rescue planes unable to locate them (they are literally pin prick dots on a vast white landscape) the search is subsequently called off leaving their chances of survival at zero
But they do survive and it’s how they do so that made international headlines because to survive they turned to cannibalism. In fairness anyone whose flown long haul will know the in-flight meals are awful and would turn to cannibalism before resorting to eating any of those spare meals. Again it would have been easy to sensationalize this aspect of the story but Bayona doesn’t dwell on it when the passengers succumb to having to finally resorting to preparing the deceased for food – all mercifully done out of sight. The thought of eating the other passengers or crew was an unthinkable one although rumour has it that it is the latest cost cutting business model for Ryanair
For many of them who were devoutly Catholic it was a moral quandary – without doing so they would not survive not knowing when if ever they might be found until the snow thawed which was likely to be months away. It was not just starvation that the survivors suffered but also extreme weather conditions and an avalanche which would kill yet more of them.
Society of the Snow has been selected by Spain as its official entry for best International Film at the 2024 Oscars and the story is and remains an extraordinary one with the film focussing firmly on how they survived such hardship. It does ignore just how such an accident occurred in the first place ( an inexperienced co-pilot at the controls who misread the instrument panel) and why the search and rescue was called off after only eight days but Society of the Snow ultimately is a celebration and a triumph of the resilience of the human spirit…..’
Related feature : J A Bayona’s, ‘A Monster Calls’….
Here’s the Society of the Snow trailer….
‘SOCIETY OF THE SNOW’ RELEASES IN SELECT CINEMAS ON 22nd DECEMBER AND ON NETFLIX 4th JANUARY 2024