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A story historically steeped in exploitative voyeurism gets a human, heartfelt rendition in Society of the Snow, even if the film is overlong and the nuances seep some tension from the harrowing tale.

The story of an Uruguyan rugby team that in the early seventies crashed in the Andes and was only able to survive thanks to eating the dead bodies of other crash victims was already filmed thirty years ago in Alive. So is there really a need for another go at the story? Society of the Snow suggests there is, even if the end result isn't as good as you'd hope it would be.

For director J.A. Bayona Society of the Snow has been a labour of love for the past decade and that personal connection is certainly visible on the screen. Much more than the earlier filmed version Society of the Snow invests in character and painstaking recreations of all the horrors that befell the central rugby team during their ordeal.

The movie also shows surprising restraint when it comes to the most salient element of the tale: the forced cannibalism. This is by no means a sensationalist film and the cannibalism is handled as just one of the many difficult decisions the lead characters have to make in order to survive.

The nuances Bayona employs do have a detrimental effect on the rhythm of the movie alas, as he needlessly stretches out the often repetitive narrative far past the two-hour mark. There are scenes in Society of the Snow that only keep you interest thanks to the ace cinematography and the lovely musical score of Michael Giaccino.

So though the film ends on a suitably emotional, cathartic note, the road towards the finale is not without bumps and may test your patience, while after the end credits have rolled you can't help but play back the philosophical themes of the film in your head and come to the realisation that a better film would have probed those with much more vigour.

release: 2023

director: J.A. Bayona

starring: Enzo Vogrincice, Agustín Pardella, Matías Recalt, Esteban Bigliardi


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