‘Society Of The Snow’ Ending Explained & Spoilers: How Did Numa Turcatti Die? 

52 years into the future, the story of the Uruguayan flight 571 that had tragically crashed in 1972 is still a topic of interest. This is not some true-crime story for thrills or even a story about death; it’s one of hope and survival. What sets J. A. Bayona’s film apart is how delightfully optimistic it is. This is a harrowing story about young men, survivors of a plane crash, who had no choice but to feed on their friends and family in order to survive for 72 days in the cold and desolate mountains. Society of the Snow is without a doubt an extraordinary tale of grit and zeal; however, it is the way that it’s presented that is truly impactful. Based on the book of the same name, this film is not only remarkably emotional; it’s got one of the most frightening and realistic flight crash depictions I’ve ever seen. Yes, this is a survival story, but it’s also simply a countdown to humanity.

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Spoilers Ahead


What Happens In The Film?

In 1972, a group of young boys from an Uruguayan rugby team were set to go to Chile for a match. They were asked to bring friends and family to fill up their private jet, so it was worth the trip. Society of the Snow is told from the viewpoint of Numa Trucatti, one of the friends who got on this flight after some deliberation. There were 45 people set to board the flight, including the 19 rugby players, their friends, loved ones, and crew members. For the most part, everything seemed just fine on the flight; a crew member even explains how flights escape the Andes while traveling over them, through a small gap in the mountain range. With 10 minutes left to reach Santiago, there’s turbulence, and just like that, the plane crashes into the snow, splitting in two, crushing those in the front of the plane as it dives nose-first into the snow.

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It’s October 13th, day 1 of the plane crash. Nobody knows how they’re going to make it out alive, but they stick together in the cold, in the broken plane, to survive the night in the freezing cold. Those who survive the night have to figure out how to keep going. The team captain takes the lead. The dead are placed in the snow in the hope that the rescue team will come soon and know what to do. When the search and rescue flights fly over the survivors, they don’t stop, come down, or throw anything down to them. On day 3, when the morale is down and the smart ones realize there’s no way they can survive without food and warmth for much longer, the oldest bunch of the lot decide to find the tail of the flight to use the batteries and try to get the radio working. They soon realize that with just a little hike, they can’t see anything below them, meaning the rescue team could never find them.

After seven days without food, the boys start to panic. Without food and water much longer, they will die, but Nando, one of the team members, has an idea. He says he won’t die just like that after surviving for this long and brings up the idea of eating the dead. While most of the survivors are dumbfounded or repulsed, some of the members, especially the ones who act as the doctors for the survivors, can’t help but think it’s the best option they have. But the argument is strong, and they don’t do it. After 8 days, Numa writes a letter to his parents, and we learn that there are 27 survivors at this point. On day 9, most people can’t bear the hunger and offer their own bodies as food if they die. The Strauch cousins are the ones who deal with the bodies, butchering the bodies so the rest can simply see it as protein.

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Marcelo has no choice but to tell his fellow survivors to try and keep living. After 10 days, he requests that the few people who aren’t eating do so so they can all help each other out. Is it simply about religion or moral principles? How does one make such a tough decision? Not simply out of desperation. In Society of the Snow, we see these lingering questions throughout the film. All the people on the plane are so young. The survivors are all in their early 20s, with their entire lives ahead of them. Finally, Numa chooses to give in to his hunger rather than grapple with his morals.  

The flight has a spot for the wounded, and just as everyone is starting to feel hopeful again, there’s a huge storm that kills another few people, Marcelo included. For 17 days, they tried to hold it together, but the fort went down with the avalanche. Now it is Numa who can’t imagine anything but survival for everyone. He tries to break through the glass of the plane and hurts his ankle in the process. They can finally see the sky and get out, though. Somehow, everyone continues to be resolute and digs up the plane. They make a plan to go to the other side and find civilization. For the most part, it’s the cold that makes this such a difficult situation. For kilometers, it’s simply mountains and snow—not even a spider in sight. Numa tries to head up to the tail with three of the other strongest guys, but with his ankle wounded and infected, he can’t make it and returns. This is when he realizes there’s nothing more he can do. He questions everything about the crash. Why did such a thing happen to them? What is the meaning of survival when it’s on the backs of so many dead people, and for what? He has a discussion with a man who lost his wife in the avalanche and is reminded that it’s for the people who wait for them back home to hear about them.

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In the third act of Society of the Snow, Numa comes to terms with his dying body. He writes a letter to the rest of the survivors, saying that the greatest love is sacrificing oneself for friends. Numa died in peace, in his sleep, feeling happy that his friends would actually survive.


How Do The Survivors Make It Out Alive?

It’s Nando and Roberto who travel west of Chile, beyond the mountains, to flat land. Roberto is the smartest of the lot; not only is he like the unofficial doctor on bord, but he’s also physically the strongest, even having the skills to fix the radio, yet it is Nando’s brute mentality of survival that keeps Roberto sane. It’s the juxtaposition of their two personalities, which ironically had them lose a rugby match before they took the flight, that helps them make it out alive. Nando is always positive and steadfast when it comes to saving everybody, whereas Roberto has a more cynical and realistic take on things. Ultimately, it’s Nando who convinces Roberto to push himself. With a week’s ration of food left, they trudge along until they cross the snow and reach the rocky area of the Chilean border. They find a stream, and as they’re nourishing themselves with clean water, across the stream is a man on a horse.

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Nando explains who they are and what they’re doing there. As the two of them gorge on some food, the Uruguayan authorities are notified about the survivors. Nando and Roberto help the rescue team find the crash site so the survivors can be brought to safety. The men hear their names on the radio as they’re called out for being the miracles of the Andes. Along with the survivors, a bag of letters and objects from all the dead is taken back to Uruguay too. Roberto wears the crucifixes of all the dead around his neck as a symbol of hope. The whole world is in disbelief that the survivors made it for 72 days, calling it a real miracle, not knowing anything about how they made it back. Yet, it’s the survivors who feel most dreadful because they were the only ones who made it. They were treated as heroes, but they never felt like it.

I suppose even so many years later, this story matters because it teaches us togetherness and love. I’m not sure about miracles; I think it’s more about how people, some mere strangers, like Numa, aid each other to weather the storm together. Society of the Snow is a reminder that there might be some good in humanity still, even if it sometimes needs some digging up.

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Ruchika Bhat
Ruchika Bhat
Ruchika, or "Ru," is a fashion designer and stylist by day and a serial binge-watcher by night. She dabbles in writing when she has the chance and loves to entertain herself with reading, K-pop dancing, and the occasional hangout with friends.

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