San Sebastian 2023 | ‘The Snow Society’: JA Bayona elevates survival cinema with his most accurate, agonizing and spectacular film

Friday, October 13, 1972. Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 crashes in the Andes. There are 45 passengers on board, including 5 crew and 19 members of the Old Christians rugby club. For 72 days, survivors have to deal with freezing temperatures, avalanches, extreme conditions and a lack of food that forces them to feed on their deceased friends.

JA Bayona collects in its most ambitious production this amazing true story of survival, taken from the book by Pablo Vierci. After passing through the Venice and San Sebastián festivals, The Snow Society will hit theaters and then Netflix before the year ends.

Furthermore, a few days ago, the bet was chosen to represent Spain at the 2024 Oscars, where it is up for the best international film award, after beating 20,000 species of bees, by Estibaliz Urresola Solaguren, and Close the eyes, by Victor Erice.

‘The Snow Society’: film review


JA Bayona’s cinema is enveloping, atmospheric, a setting that drags you from your seat to the screen so that you laugh, cry, suffer or experience whatever its protagonists are experiencing. And, when the Catalan director collects a true story, This ability to make yourself another character in the story is multiplied.

He did it with The impossible, but it is now, in The Snow Society, when the synergy rises to make us participate in anguish, fear, agony, desperation and moral dilemmas in his most raw, rounded and accurate work to date.

It doesn’t matter that we know the end of this story, the director knows how to maintain tension by filming adversity from small spaces. The short shots and sudden movement of cameras give us the feeling of claustrophobia in that airplane cubicle, We see ourselves reflected in the cracked and burned faces of the characters, we tremble with the turbulence and we cover ourselves from the imminent impact of the snow.

In contrast, Bayona reserves the general shots for a calm nature, beautiful despite the cemetery it represents for the survivors. The snowy, white mountain range is hypnotic as the sun hides and appears between the mountains. Because, in the end, the story that the filmmaker masterfully addresses is not that of man against hostile nature, but that of man against himself, against his belief system or his acquired norms when faced with a life or death situation.

This is a character story, with Enzo Vogrincic at the head of a very fine cast. With them, we explore the human condition and the survival instinct. What drives us to move forward? How do you deal with the loss of yourself? How far does hope go? And it is there that Bayona, which always confronts the fear of death with flashes of light, also gives us luminous moments, trivial conversations between passengers, jokes, anecdotes and camaraderie.

“Who were we in the mountains?” asks Numa Turcatti (Vogrincic) at a certain point in the film. People remember them as heroes, like the miracle of the Andes. But the screen prefers to bring them closer to us and show them as friends, doctors, undertakers, explorers, poets, writers, photographers, children, sons, parents.

The Snow Society It is a technical boast, an example of how to shoot action scenes with indelible sequences like those of the accident and the avalanche, but what prevails is the heart, the inside more than the outside, because It is in that intimacy of the survivors where Bayona finds true spectacularity, the enveloping atmosphere and cinema in capital letters.

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