Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

‘La sociedad de la nieve’ Horrifies and Impresses in Equal Measure

IMDB
IMDB

There’s a scene in Jordan Peele’s 2022 film “Nope” in which a feral UFO-shaped alien “abducts” dozens of people, digesting them alive in a claustrophobic, harrowing portrayal of human panic and agony. J.A. Bayona’s 2024 Netflix offering “La sociedad de la nieve” (“Society of the Snow”) — which depicts the struggles of a group of Uruguayans stranded in the freezing Andes mountains following a freak airplane crash —is, if nothing else, a 2 ½ hour cut of “Nope’s” distressing maceration sequence. It is a film rife with tension and terror; a non-stop gut punch in which the main characters’ already precarious situation seems to further deteriorate by the minute. 

Much like the primal, animalistic alien in “Nope,” the plane passengers — including narrator Numa Turcatti (Enzo Vogrincic), his rugby teammate Roberto Canessa (Matías Recalt) and student Nando Parrado (Agustín Pardella) — find themselves caught up in the gears of a death-dealing natural force that is as relentless as it is unreasonable. Whereas other survival thrillers like “Cast Away” or “The Road” rely on isolation’s slow grind or external personified threats to generate fear, “Society of the Snow” offers the best of both worlds; the elements aren’t exactly personified in the shape of a killer or monster, nor are they passive. The snowy wilderness blows in through windows, rips metal from the fuselage and wraps its icy grip around its victims’ throats — at times it’s almost a character unto itself. 

Of course, no film preoccupied with a disembodied enemy can get far on its own without strong performances — here, “Society of the Snow” delivers in spades. Vogrincic in particular performs his role admirably, given the difficult task of simultaneously emoting on screen and recounting the movie’s events with deadpan despair. Furthermore, he does an excellent job of concealing the film’s penultimate twist; I won’t spoil it here, but as is somewhat obvious, it carries poignant weight. But, other than Vogrincic, it is nearly impossible to pick another standout actor. All are immaculately cast and perfectly balanced, and their struggle quickly becomes our struggle by way of the heart-rending intensity that they bring to the screen. 

At its core, however, I would argue that “Society of the Snow” isn’t even about said struggle, resilience or whatever other Bear Grylls/Jeremy Wade/Aldo Kane buzzword one might attach to Bayona’s flick. Instead, it seems to concern itself with a theodicy question; i.e. “How do you reconcile faith in a god or gods with such suffering as that of the plane passengers?” Time and time again, “Society’s” characters pray, invoke their religion or are pictured with crucifixes and rosaries. Clearly, the viewer is meant to constantly be thinking of this critical question. 

It’s a dynamic that adds significant depth to the film’s message, encouraging the audience to engage with faith, existence and belief within a framework that is easily applicable to secular and religious spectators alike. Pain is good at reeling movie-goers in, but “Society of the Snow” correctly recognizes that more depth is needed to truly achieve cinematic greatness. The highs hit higher, the lows lower and the eventual catharsis is all the sweeter. 

So is “Society of the Snow” worth sitting down for 150-ish minutes? Unequivocally yes. Impeccably crafted and engaging from start to finish, the film sweetens the deal by being free to stream on Netflix. Not to mention, it snagged an Oscar nomination for Best International Feature Film. Give it a chance — you won’t be disappointed. 

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