Spanish feature film received two Oscar 2024 nominations.
“When you read Pablo Vierci’s book, anthropophagy is one of the topics discussed, but it’s not the one that caught my attention the most,” said Juan Antonio Bayona in an interview with our partners at SensaCine during the San Sebastián Film Festival, before the premiere of The Snow Society. Anyone who has read the 2008 book in which the 16 survivors share their experience in the first person, as well as anyone who has seen the impressive film, knows what he means.
The accident that forever marked the lives of those young people 50 years ago and the 72 days that followed forged one of the most incredible true stories ever told: a feat of survival in which what really moves us is how some boys just 20 years old formed a union of mutual support and collaboration that ended up saving their lives.
There were two expedition members who managed to find help after a 10-day walk, from which it was impossible to come out alive, but for this to happen each contribution from the rest of the group was necessary, a detail that absolutely none of the 16 survivors forgot to mention in their story. . That’s how it happened and that’s how he portrays it well with Bayona.
The story was also told in the film Vivos (1993), they, at the same time, gave each other support, hope and affection, forging a society, which they dubbed the “snow society”, which continues to unite them to this day.
“The big change here was to change the point of view: not to place emphasis on the one who eats his friend’s body, but on the friend who gives his body so that his companion can return home”, reflected Juan Antonio Bayona in relation to anthropophagy. “That, for me, was a very important change because what could have been risky of being shocking actually became a gesture of great humanity. A gesture of compassion.”
“Everyone knows they are survivors and fuel at the same time”
When the survivors realized that they would have to resort to corpses for food, they made a pact: each of them would offer their body to their friends if they died. The last to die on the mountain, Numa Turcatti, the film’s main protagonist played by Enzo Vogrincic, died, in fact, with a paper in his hands reminding him: “There is no greater love than the one who gives life to his friends.” The next day, the expeditionaries began the walk they had been preparing for so long.
The topic of anthropophagy is addressed several times in the book, but especially interesting is the reflection of Nando Parrado, one of the two expeditioners who, together with Roberto Canessa, managed to carry out the suicide mission. “We form a completely different society, but an extremely caring and efficient one. Everyone gave their all and we were never better men than in the mountains”, he explains in his story, remembering that they began to organize themselves as soon as the accident occurred.
“It is in this context that the issue of feeding bodies must be understood. It is one of the aspects that made this story universally known. People can’t put themselves in the place we were. […] When there are options, there are options. But when there are none, don’t look for them, because they don’t exist.” In fact, for Nando Parrado, they actually acted as “advancers”, as decades later it is common for living people to sign documents in which they offer their bodies to save lives.
It’s very easy to say, ‘I wouldn’t have done that.’ Make no mistake: you would have done exactly the same thing as us at that moment.
“It was a gesture of true greatness and, I believe, an advanced way of thinking: giving of oneself in life”, admits Parrado, who makes it clear that they were never “better people than in the Andes”.
The film, a Spanish candidate for the Best Foreign Language Film nomination at the Oscars, is available on Netflix.
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