Welcome to our Colossus Movie Guide for Society of the Snow. This guide contains our detailed library of content covering key aspects of the movie’s plot, ending, meaning, and more. We encourage your comments to help us create the best possible guide. Thank you!
What is Society of the Snow about?
Society of the Snow has taken Netflix by storm. It’s an improvement over the popular 1993 film, Alive (starring Ethan Hawke), that attempted to capture what happened after Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 crashed in the Andes—but a whitewashed cast and melodrama failed to do right by the story. Bayona’s new rendition was made in tandem with the survivors and is incredibly accurate to not only their physical experience but their emotional journey. 50 years later, the survival on the mountain is still one of the greatest examples of human perseverance. It continues to inspire people around the world. What makes Society of the Snow special is how it captures the love and sacrifice that made such an amazing feat possible. And the statement it makes on carrying the burden of survivor’s guilt.
Movie Guide table of contents
- Numa Turcatti – Enzo Vogrincic
- Nando Parrado – Agustin Pardella
- Roberto Canessa – Matías Recalt
- Gustavo Zerbino – Tomas Wolf
- Carlitos Páez – Felipe González Otaño
- Álvaro Mangino – Juan Caruso
- Marcelo Pérez del Castillo – Diego Vegezzi
- Adolfo “Frito” Scratch – Esteban Kukuczka
- Eduardo Strauch – Rafael Federman
- Daniel Fernández Strach – Francisco Romero
- Antonio “Tintin” Vizintin – Agustín Della Corte
- Bobby François – Agustin Berruti
- Alfredo “Pancho” Delgado – Valentino Alonso
- Pedro Algorta – Luciano Chatton
- José Luis “Coche” Inciarte – Simón Hempe
- Ramón “Moncho” Sabella – Rocco Posca
- Arturo Nogueira – Fernando Contigiani Garcia
- Rafael “el Vasco” Echavarren – Benjamín Segura
- Roy Harley – Andy Pruss
- Daniel Maspons – Santiago Vaca Narvaja
- Dante Lagurara – Maximiliano de la Cruz
- Javier Methol – Esteban Bigliardi
- Liliana Methol – Paula Baldini
- Carlos Páez Vilaró – Carlos “Carlitos” Páez
- Gastón Costemalle – Louta
- Enrique Platero – Federico Aznarez
- Susana Parrado -Alfonsina Carrocio
- Julio César Ferradas – Iair Said
- Esther Nicola – Virginia Kaufmann
- Carlos Roque – Emanuel Parga
- Diego Storm – Felipe Ramusio
- Gustavo Nicolich – Blas Polidori
- Based on – La Sociedad de la Nieve by Pablo Vierci
- Written by – J.A. Bayona | Nicolás Casariego | Jamie Marques | Bernat Vilaplana
- Directed by – J.A. Bayona
The ending of Society of the Snow explained
The end of Society of the Snow begins 72 days after the crash, with the successful retrieval of the 16 survivors of Air Force flight 571. We see helicopters swoop in and take them from the wreckage. The moment they reunite with family. The outpouring of love and affection from the general population back home in Uruguay. And, finally, time spent recovering in a hospital. That stretch in the hospital serves as a visual summary of the physical impact of survival.
A voiceover from Numa punctuates the final stretch.
Journalists want to know, with their cameras and microphones. Doctors want to know, with their exams and instruments. What do they see? They’re scared of their dirty clothes. Their skeletal bodies, baked by the sun. The grime on their skin. The newspapers talk about the heroes of the Andes. The ones who came back from death to reunite with their fathers. Their mothers. Their girlfriends. And their children. But they don’t feel like heroes. Because they were dead like us, and only they got to come back home. Now when they remember us, they ask themselves, “Why didn’t we all get to come back?” “What does it all mean?” You’ll need to find out yourselves. ‘Cause the answer is in you. Keep taking care of each other. And tell everyone what we did on the mountain.
Numa’s last words land over an image of the 16 survivors in their hospital room. They’re all grouped together. Many shoulder to shoulder on the floor. Others in pairs on beds made for one. The movie ends.
The closing speech is a follow-up to the Society of the Snow’s opening. Over shots of the Andes, where the plane crashes, we hear Numa say: On October 13th, 1972, a Uruguayan plane crashed in the Andean Mountain Range. Forty of us passengers and five crew members were on board the plane. Some say it was a tragedy. Others call it a miracle. What really happened? What happens when the world abandons you? When you have no clothes, and you’re freezing? When you have no food, and you’re dying. The answer’s in the mountains. We have to go back to the past to understand that the past is what changes the most.
We then cut to a rugby game. Roberto gets the ball and everyone tells him to pass it to Nando. Roberto refuses to pass it and squanders the play. We cut to the locker room and everyone’s giving Roberto a hard time. He makes excuses for why he didn’t pass to Nando. The team captain says “Roberto, you trust me, right? So, when I say, ‘Pass it,’ you pass it. Okay?”
That sets up the core journey of the film. We start with these guys who are on a sports team and think they understand what it means to trust in one another, to believe in one another. But, clearly, issues exist.
Jump to the very end and what do we see? It’s a counterpoint to the division in the locker room, where everyone was together but still apart. The experience on the mountain bonded them in a way few other things in the world could. We see this reflected in Numa’s dialogue:
Opening: What happens when the world abandons you?
Closing: Keep taking care of each other.
When the world abandons you, when you’re isolated on a mountain and have to fight every second of every day to survive—you learn to depend on one another. You become, as the film’s title suggests, a community all your own.
In short: Roberto at the beginning of the movie wouldn’t pass the ball to Nando. The Roberto at the end of the movie? Wouldn’t hesitate for a second.
Their perseverance and teamwork under incredible conditions, the demonstration of the amazing resolve that resides within each of us, made the group internationally popular. That’s why it’s important to tell people what they did on the mountain. Because it will inspire others.
You may be happy to know that, in real life, the survivors meet every December 22nd. From an article on Today.com: According to the book “Society of the Snow,” upon which the movie was based, the survivors gather each year on Dec. 22nd, the first day of the rescue, to “hold a ritual commemoration.”
“All of them reunite with all their families. In that way they have seen all the children of their friends as they were born, together with their own…now most of their children are between 18 and 26 years old, exactly the age they were on the mountain. They remind them of themselves.
So they really have continued to take care of each other.
The themes and meaning of Society of the Snow
The second scene of the film takes place in a church. And we hear the priest recite a bit from the Bible that says: “You are my beloved Son,” he said. And at once, the Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert. And He remained in the desert for 40 days and nights, being tempted by Satan at all times. “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread,” the tempter said. But Jesus answered, “Man shall not live on bread alone…” [dialogue falls out for a second then resumes] …and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body…”
The missing part of dialogue is from Matthew 4: “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
Even though only a few seconds pass in the film, the line about “this is my body” comes from Matthew 26. Chapters ahead. Specifically, it’s from The Last Supper, where Jesus has a final meal with his disciples.
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”
Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
The priest’s dialogue clearly foreshadows the plane crash and the survivors having to cannibalize the deceased for sustenance. They spent 72 days and nights on the mountain. And Jesus comparing bread to his body…well.
The context is there to signal the subtext of the idea that Jesus “died for our sins.” That ties back to the final speech from Numa: But they don’t feel like heroes. Because they were dead like us, and only they got to come back home. Now when they remember us, they ask themselves, “Why didn’t we all get to come back?” “What does it all mean?”
If you put the deaths in the religious context set-up by the scene in the church, we can see the survivors as the disciples and those who passed away as similar to Jesus in the sense that their deaths saved everyone else. In the Bible, that’s in a spiritual sense. In Society of the Snow, it’s quite literal.
Throughout the film, characters engage in debates about faith and loss of faith. So the religious theme is very much something that’s actively cultivated.
Loss of faith and the god of the mountain
For some, the plane crash and loss of life can lead to a loss of faith. If God existed, why would this happen? The randomness of it all. The cruelty. It seems like more than enough evidence to conclude we’re alone.
Despite the church scene and the Bible references as framing devices, Society of the Snow manages to stay rather neutral about the religious element. Some will see a positive religious message, especially in the use of light in the final scenes. Others will find a much more agonistic reading. In the agnostic reading, the unity of the group becomes its own sort of faith and is treated with an appropriate solemnity. As in “We may not have a higher power, but we have each other, and that’s enough.”
Arturo has a speech: But my faith, sorry, Numa, isn’t in your God. Because that God tells me what I’m supposed to do at home. But He doesn’t tell me what to do on the mountain. What’s happening here is a completely different situation. Numa. This is my heaven. I believe in another god. I believe in the god that Roberto keeps inside his head when he comes to heal each of my wounds. In the god that Nando keeps in his legs and that lets him continue walking no matter what. I believe in Daniel’s hands when he cuts the meat. And Fito, when he gives it to us without saying which of our friends it belongs to. That way, we can eat it without…without having to remember their faces. That’s the god I believe in.
Though Numa’s voiceover, from the perspective of someone in the afterlife, does seem to lean the film in a much more spiritual direction.
Survivor’s guilt and the gift of the dead
While most of Society of the Snow focuses on the event itself, survivor’s guilt is part of that experience. The cannibalism illustrates this. Your friend is dead. And what you want to do is protect them, honor them, to the best of your ability given the reality of the situation. You may think the least you could do is bury them. Except the snow makes that impossible. And the hunger grows. To the point where it’s eat or die yourself. Instead of protecting and honoring, you’re the one desecrating.
The conversation about consent highlights the pain of this decision. The ones already dead couldn’t have given consent because no one knew this would happen. And the survivors have to confront that sense of vandalization. They feel awful, gross. But as individual survivors face mortality, they do give consent.
It’s Numa who summarizes it: Nando, I want you to know you have permission to use my body… I’m ready for whatever’s next. Both of us are. And I’m so happy to know that you’re all gonna make it. That makes me happy, Nando.
Numa knows that even if he can’t survive, he can help his friends survive. That he gets to play a part in them making it out. And you can assume that many of the others, had they been given the opportunity, would have said the same thing. “We crashed and you’re going to have to survive for 72 days? Definitely eat. Please.”
It’s similar to the relationship between parents and children. Each of us is the byproduct of countless ancestors. Everything they had is gone. But we remain. We carry their legacies forward. And when we have children, they’ll do the same for us. Many parents feel that sense of responsibility to provide the best opportunity for their kids. And they make sacrifices to that end. Emotional, physical, financial, experiential. All to ensure that when we’re gone, our kids have everything they need to, like we did, carry on.
It can be extremely sad but is also very beautiful. Numa’s final speech gets at this dynamic. The guilt of being the one who remains. But also being the answer to the question of “What does it all mean?” It means you have the opportunity to live. Do so to the best of your ability. Because that’s what everyone who loved you, who sacrificed for you, wants for you. That’s a burden, definitely. But one of the greatest gifts anyone can ever give you.
Why is the movie called Society of the Snow?
The title comes from a book by Pablo Vierci. Society of the Snow: The Definitive Account of the World’s Greatest Survival Story. It was originally published in Spain in 2009 and only narrowly available. So much so that few references exist on Google. All that you can really find are references to the newer, English edition released to coincide with the film. But it was a book that made a major impression on Bayona.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, J. A. Bayona had this to say: To give you an idea, the title of The Impossible [Bayona’s 2012 film] comes from the book Society of the Snow. I was researching human catastrophes when Pablo Vierci’s book was published in Spain, and the book was actually a great help in order to understand what The Impossible was about. And I remember reading a paragraph in the book where the word “impossible” is repeated seven times. And I thought it was a great title for that film. And then on the last day of shooting The Impossible, we bought the rights for Society of the Snow.
Vierci wasn’t on the plane. But he told Deadline: I went to school with the survivors and with the deceased people, and all memories of my childhood are with them. I was 22 in 1972, and something like this, a catastrophe like this, everything changed, because at 22 years old you think everybody at that age is immortal. A plane with all your friends disappeared, there was 72 days of mystery, where my friends and I, who were in Uruguay, who didn’t go in the plane, we thought that they were not alive. So, when they appeared on the 23rd of December 1972, and when we knew the list, the 16 alive, and 29 deceased, everything broke in our heads, and in my mind, and in my emotions. When they came back, Nando Parrado, he was my classmate, he asked me to help him with his writing. I had a commitment with the survivors and fundamentally with the deceased, because they were too [few] people who knew them for 20 years, and nobody who wrote about them.
Bayona, in the same interview with Deadline, mentions that the survivors, with Vierci, “sat down together again and wrote a different book [than others previously published] where you can feel the weight of time, you can feel the questions that are still not answered.”
Further on, Bayona explains his view of including the voiceover from Numa. That contains the quintessential meaning of the title. Bayona: Basically, [Numa] needs to forget the civilization he’s coming from, and adapt to the mountain to discover himself, and to process the shadow that we all have inside. And by doing so he understands what is to me the essence of the story, that you and I are the same thing. There is a moment when someone says to Roberto Canessa, “You have the best legs, you need to walk for us.” That’s the idea I’m talking about. The ones that were dying, saying, “Use the only thing that I have left, my body.
Vierci also co-wrote Roberto’s autobiography I Had to Survive, which came out in 2017.
So that’s more of the background on the title. The meaning gets at two ideas. First, that the mountain was a separate place with rules unto itself. That’s what Bayona meant when he said “Numa needs to forget the civilization he’s coming from, and adapt to the mountain to discover himself…” The subtext there is about the cannibalism. What do you have to do to survive in a situation like that? In a place like that? What are the rules you must follow and what are the ones you must leave behind?
The second idea is the bond formed by everyone on that plane, those who survived and those who didn’t. 45 people. That’s a community. United forever by the experience. And Vierci witnessed that first hand. He was with everyone before. With everyone after. He’s witnessed how they’ve supported one another over the last 50 years. So the use of the word “society” is really important because it conveys the bond shared by those on the mountain.
Important motifs in Society of the Snow
While Society of the Snow may not outright be a religious movie, it’s incredibly spiritual. That’s established early on with the scene in the church, the mix of sanctity and irreverence. As well as through the conversations multiple characters have over the course of their 72 days on the mountain. It also comes through in the lighting of the final montage in the hospital, the use of montage, and the music. Lastly, Numa was one of the most religious characters and he narrates the film from beyond the grave.
Teamwork and sacrifice
The opening rugby game sets up the idea that these guys are part of a team. Once they crash on the mountain, what it takes to survive challenges not only their teamwork but the idea of what it even means to be part of a team. Specifically, it’s the sacrifices they make for one another. Sometimes, the sacrifice is major, like allowing your friends to eat you once you’ve passed. Other times, it’s minor, like just sitting with someone as they’re struggling. One of the most unique and poignant examples of this is the character who refuses to get on the rescue helicopter because they won’t let him bring the bag of mementos from those who passed away. He sits on the ground, indicating he’d rather stay there than not bring these things home. Why? Because it would be like leaving members of the team, members of the society, behind—for good.
These acts of sacrifice and teamwork consistently appear throughout the film and are the reason the 16 survived.
Questions & answers about Society of the Snow
Is Society of the Snow accurate? Is it the same story as Alive?
Very. The book its based on, by the same name, was written by a childhood friend of the survivors. He’s spent more time with them than anyone who has covered the story. And actually wrote the book with them in order to correct some of the false assumptions and inaccurate narratives that had formed after the publication of Alive and the 1993 film by the same name. J. A. Bayona spent nearly a decade working on the film and getting to know the survivors and the families of everyone else. He said they conducted over 100 hours of interviews.
Alive was exactly what you’d expect from a Hollywood production in the 1990s. They whitewashed much of the cast and put an emphasis on melodrama. Overall, Alive is much less thorough and complex than Society of the Snow. Almost like reading a wikipedia article versus reading a book. But Nando Parrado was a technical advisor and seemed happy enough with it. I found an article from 1993, published by the Baltimore Sun, where they note that Carlitos Paez was “helping to publicize the movie” and included some positive quotes from him.
The thing about Alive is that it doesn’t really get into the before or after of it all. It begins with the plane crash and ends with the rescue. So it’s missing out on some of the key context that Society actually incorporates.
Where are the survivors now?
Weirdly enough, the Daily Mail has the best article about this. It includes updates on all 16 survivors.
Where was the plane going?
The Old Christians Club is a rugby union in Montevideo, Uruguay. They were supposed to face the Old Boys Club in Santiago, Chile. Both clubs still exist!
Is the plane still in the Andes?
So the government went to the crash and made a common grave and put the remains of everyone in it. Then they tried to burn the wreckage. Apparently some of it remained. People actually make pilgrimages to the crash site and leave mementos at the grave.
Now it’s your turn
Have more unanswered questions about Society of the Snow? Are there themes or motifs we missed? Is there more to explain about the ending? Please post your questions and thoughts in the comments section! We’ll do our best to address every one of them. If we like what you have to say, you could become part of our movie guide!