Beauty in bleakness: The human spirit’s triumph in ‘Society of the Snow’

At the Oscar Awards, the spotlight often shines on the Best International Feature Film category.

This award, honouring films made outside the United States with mainly non-English dialogue, showcases global filmmaking diversity and stories from varied cultures.

Over time, it has grown more inclusive, recognising films from previously underrepresented countries.

This year’s standout nominee is the Spanish film ‘Society of the Snow’ (SOTS), directed by J.A. Bayona and based on Pablo Vierci’s book.

It retells the story of the 1972 Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571’s crash in the Andes. Bayona’s version offers a fresh take on the survivors’ universal struggle against adversity and showcases the enduring human spirit.

The film masterfully portrays the desolation of the Andes, a place where silence reigns supreme, and life struggles to exist.

The crash site in the mountains becomes a stark backdrop for a narrative about survival against unimaginable odds. Its striking cinematography captures the beauty and harshness of the conditions, the biting cold bleeding through the screen as if we were there.

SOTS stands out for its profound exploration of the human spirit. It confronts the harsh realities of the survivors’ ordeal, including controversial aspects like cannibalism, with a nuanced focus on compassion, love, and resilience.

The cast, primarily composed of newcomers, adds a layer of authenticity and relatability, bringing the narrative to life.

As the story shifts dramatically from a joyous celebration to a harrowing nightmare, transforming the breathtaking Alpine landscape into a terrain of terror, the film transcends its narrative to offer deeper insights into human perseverance and the essence of leadership.

Life’s defining moments

The struggles and triumphs of SOTS mirror our life experiences, where we, too, face defining moments that test our spirit.

While the story is unique in its details, it resonates with the universal experience of facing and overcoming life’s adversities.

The movie’s portrayal of the survivors’ ordeal in the Andes becomes a profound metaphor for some of life’s most defining and challenging moments.

It is a stark reminder that life, much like the unforgiving Andes, can be unpredictable and harsh, pushing and testing us to our limits.

In our own lives, we encounter various forms of hardships, whether it’s the pain and joy intertwined in the birth of a child, the turmoil of a painful divorce, or the profound grief of losing a soulmate or a long-time partner.

We also face the collective trauma of events like the Covid-19 pandemic, where lives and livelihoods vanished almost overnight.

Our battles include the slow, painful realisation of parents losing their memories to dementia, and the moral anguish triggered by witnessing injustices and conflicts, such as the ongoing crisis in Gaza.

These diverse experiences share a common thread – they test our resilience, moral compass, and capacity to find hope in despair.

They force us to confront the very essence of what it means to be human, to struggle, and ultimately, to endure.

SOTS encapsulates this struggle as a tale of physical survival and a testament to the emotional and spiritual endurance that defines us in our darkest hours.

Personal strength and leadership

The resilience and adaptability we cultivate in our personal lives have profound implications for leadership.

In my interactions with business leaders, discussions often revolve around culture and change management, underscoring the essence of effective leadership.

Watching SOTS, one realises that leadership is not a one-size-fits-all role. True leaders evolve according to the needs of their circumstances.

They adapt their strategies in response to the environment, dynamics, and needs of their teams. The strongest leaders are those with a clear purpose and the ability to inspire the same in their teams.

In SOTS, we see a microcosm of this dynamic, where leadership roles are fluid, adapting to the dire circumstances faced by the survivors.

It’s a vivid portrayal of how leaders must be versatile, responsive, and purpose-driven.

Just as we navigate personal challenges with resilience, leaders must guide their teams through professional hardships with the same strength and adaptability.

And just as the survivors in ‘Society of the Snow’ found the strength to persevere under the harshest conditions, we, in our own lives, are often called upon to navigate through daunting trials.

The film touches on the taboo subject of cannibalism with a profound sense of humanity, transforming it into a metaphor for the extreme sacrifices and hard choices made in the pursuit of survival.

It resonates deeply with the concept of sacrifice in our lives – the difficult decisions we make for the wellbeing and protection of those we care about.

The sentiment, ‘There is no greater love than to give one’s life for friends,’ echoes powerfully beyond the movie’s context. It reflects the depths of human sacrifice and empathy, not just in extreme survival scenarios, but in everyday acts of selflessness and bravery.

In both personal and professional spheres, this idea challenges us to consider the sacrifices we are willing to make for the greater good.

It reminds us that empathy, courage, and self-sacrifice are universal values, pivotal in overcoming life’s adversities and essential in shaping effective and compassionate leaders.

Life’s lessons in adversity and appreciation

Nando Parrado, who miraculously walked with Roberto Canessa to find help and rescue, offers a powerful perspective on life.

In an interview, he recounted: “At that moment, I lost everything. I lost my family, my friends, my future. And I was sitting down on a rock 4,500 metres with a shirt. And now, I am here, 51 years later because I did something.

“If you have never experienced a situation where you thought life is not worth living, you may not appreciate how valuable every breath is.

“Enjoy every day; the sun will come out for everybody. And it depends on everybody to have a life, create your own life. Even if you have a big problem, be it financial, relationship, economics, friendship, or illness, maybe you can think about us, about this movie…”

This poignant statement from someone who faced the unimaginable offers a powerful perspective on life.

Their story is not just a tale of survival but a testament to the human spirit’s capacity to find beauty and meaning in existence, even in the bleakest of circumstances.

I hope that when we grapple with life’s challenges, we can find inspiration in Nando and his companions.

May their journey inspire us to be grateful for each new day, to appreciate the value of life, and to remember that no matter the hardship, there is always a reason to persevere and a new dawn to look forward to.

The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the writer and do not necessarily represent that of Twentytwo13.

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