When your only option after an air disaster is to eat your fellow passengers and friends

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There are stories that can be too gruesome for words and amazing at the same time. Society of the Snow is such a story. About young guests who experience a plane crash and have to survive for seventy days in the snow and hellish cold. That was only possible if they did the most horrible thing you could imagine.

Society of the Snow is a world-famous story (and now a film), but perhaps less known to a younger generation. This ‘adventure’ dates from more than 51 years ago. If you look up Society of the Snow on Google, you will immediately see that many people ask ‘is it true?’ behind typing. Absolutely.

No major new titles, but Society of the Snow

At this time you always read Metro’s Film Review of the Week about a new title in the cinema. No really big titles will appear this week, we are somewhat used to that in January. It doesn’t matter much for the cinema, there are plenty of hits that Metro also discussed earlier. Wonka (1 million visitors!) is still there, De Tatta’s 2 and also Bon Bini: Bangkok Nights, which became ‘platinum’ this week with 400,000 visitors.

This week we therefore choose Society of the Snow by the Spanish director JA Bayona. There were only positive messages about this film, which you can see on Netflix, on some platforms. It was or is being shown in a few cinemas, by the way. That is special and perhaps special for film lovers who do not have the streaming service. Consider it a tip if you are looking for a great title, because that is this ‘society in the snow’ of almost 2.5 hours.

Complete rugby team in Society of the Snow

It is October 13, 1972 when forty passengers and five crew members fly from Uruguay to Chile. Most of them are a rugby team from Montevideo. Some are 19 years old, most are in their twenties. Students who may be together for the last time, before a life of only work begins. Some of them have never left home.

Disaster strikes, because the plane crashes (the rapid descent and the impact are filmed quite well, it must be said). There are many deaths, but also survivors. There they are at 3500 meters in the South American Andes, in a remote area where nothing grows due to the altitude and all you see is snow. Seriously injured people should be cared for by a medical student who does what he thinks is right. What little food is found among the wreckage is gone in no time. A good portion of the aircraft’s fuselage provides some protection and becomes their temporary home. For seventy days…

plane crash Society of the snow
Surviving in the fuselage of an airplane at an altitude of 3500 meters. Photo: Netflix

Watch X for 5 minutes and wonder what everyone’s fuss about

Society of the Snow is not only an unlikely adventure of survival, but also a film about camaraderie. About how you, as friends, get each other through something terrible. But how do you do that if the situation keeps getting worse? What if you hear on a found radio that the search for survivors of your crash has been stopped after a week? And what if an avalanche literally falls on your roof? After a week there are still 27 living people left, but it doesn’t stop there.

Just look at X for five minutes and immediately wonder what those people worry about all day long. That group in Society of the Snow was recently in trouble.

plane crash Society of the snow
Sit and wait. Photo: Netflix

From simple question to horror

When this story finally broke, the whole world sat at home on the couch with bated breath. How did some of those heroes get out of the battle alive? With that question you have arrived at the topic in Society of the Snow that appeals most to the imagination.

There was no food to be found in the disaster area, but meat was plentiful. Meat from deceased and frozen fellow passengers and friends. “To live you have to eat,” says someone. It sounds so simple. “It’s out there,” sounds like horror. A good question from one of the boys: “Is it legal?” Another counters this with: “Don’t I have the right to keep myself alive?” Completely fascinating and real friendship: “If I don’t make it, you can eat me.” It’s horrifying to think: “It’s easier to do with snow.”

Beards and butts

Anyone at Society of the Snow might wonder why the men’s beards don’t grow for a long time. Or why they sometimes light a cigarette after a considerable amount of time. Were they really that frugal? But above all, ‘enjoy’ this temporary society in an actually impossible situation. It’s wonderful, terrible, everything at the same time.

The men who were there at the time and are still alive are now around 70. Some of them still go back to the crash site, where a memorial altar has been made from pieces of aircraft at a mass grave.

Rating out of 5: 4.5

You can read Metro’s Film Review of the Week every Wednesday evening. New titles usually appear in Dutch cinemas on Thursdays. Reporter Erik Jonk chooses one every week. Next week: The Color Purple, Steven Spielberg’s 1985 classic with a new look.

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