Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Supervivientes de los Andes (1976)

No vegetation or wildlife...just your amigos

Based on the book "Survive!" from '73, this was a Mexican made film that quickly jumped in for the cinematic experience of real events that happened just four years prior in '72. The story involved a group of people that after an accident had to make impossible choices for their survival that they would have never done otherwise. To take that even further, this was a special set of circumstances that would more than likely never be repeated by someone else again. Both this and the much bigger budget version of "Alive" in the '90s show how the main events occurred similarly, with some minor scenes emphasized more than each other. However, "Alive" was the more dramatic and captivating version for the visual experience and for an introduction to how some of these people made it out to tell their harrowing story. "Supervivientes de los Andes" didn't capture the full effects of the events, with the exception of some grisly bits that were amped up in marketing tactics for the U.S. dubbed version called "Survive!"--which has a different running time and some other alternations. Shock value sells, and it makes you wonder about "Soylent Green" coming out a year later after the Andes' events with its final twist that wasn't in the original novel it was based on.

Goodbyes are said at the airport with a group of young rugby players and other passengers from Uruguay on their way through the Andes mountains in South America. There is some foreshadowing dialogue in the beginning as if the characters had an intuition for what's to come; that or for a wink-wink to those who already know the story. In the air, weather conditions and confusion on both of the pilots' behalves causes them to crash into a remote area of the mountains where there isn't any vegetation or wildlife and the temperatures are freezing if that wasn't enough. A share are dead, others are injured and the rest try to overcome the harsh and snowy conditions with little provisions. They attempt to stay warm in the remaining portion of the plane, though get at each other with in fighting, until they realize they have to stick together as a union. What originally started with 45 passengers at the outset begins to dwindle with lack of food and slim chances of a rescue attempt. They're losing hope and starving, though soon enough one of them propositions they eat the meat on the dead bodies so as to remain alive.

The avalanche scene--which killed more of their party and in real life caused them to be held up for a few days--in the movie is over and done with in an abrupt and brief scene, causing it to lose much of the impact and then only revert back to shots of cannibalism. I found it to be one of the more emotional scenarios they had to go through because they were so beaten down by that point that it caused the remaining survivors to reevaluate their chances all over again. Their health is failing and they realize a trek with a selected strong few is their only chance out to save the rest. Towards the close it gets a little too drawn out with anticipation before the final pay off. After seeing how down and desperate they were beforehand, the viewer is dying to see some resolve by that point. There's a framing technique with alternate shots of a rescue attempt, not just to detail that they tried, but to make it somewhat of a driving point. However, it comes off as anticlimactic with too much space between the shots of the survivors to put the audience on the edge of their seats.

What's disappointing here, is a share of the transitions between events feel as if they're laid out like a formulaic storyboard, while missing out on some of the emotional impact of the real occurrence or even how they got from one action to the next. In theory, things are bleak and hopeless as they sit around, but it feels like watching this from a distance with the screen still blocking contact between you and the characters. Sometimes the performers don't feel as individuals rather than a general group, therefore there's more concentration as an overview than on specific character's thoughts or their interpretations and motivations. Watching this now or in '76, doesn't always do more than a written account, as the audio and visual cues to translate the events aren't always done justice here. There aren't any memorable performances as a result that stick out--with the exception of the fathers trying to hold on despite not being extensively shot--or even stand out acts of the dramatic, and it can make the story turned into the cinematic experience feel somewhat flat. The production values range from makeshift to just meeting the grade. It comes with some model airplanes to make one stretch their imagination, as well as not so convincing snow sometimes thrown this way and that when they're filming the fuselage on what looks to be a sound stage with actors missing icy breath. Other shots of the surrounding outdoors appear to be filmed on location and give it more of the realism of being there in the barren surroundings. This has some stock sound effects, such as a looped wind effect that becomes tedious after a while, and even some cries from the characters are overdubbed.

This is kept simple in some areas, yet it switches over to show some candid shots of eating flesh of what's supposed to be humans, not to mention cutting it off and laying out strips so the survivors can economically munch their portion. My guess is to curb fighting over it and keep it civilized. It's somewhat shocking as the camera doesn't pull away even when the point is made, but they also didn't kill to eat or do it in a way that's rapid, which makes it more an act of human will to hang on for life and see your loved ones on the other side than something outright animalistic. From being backed into a wall, they were still conscience as to what they were doing to make it out: from first the plane crash without falling out or exploding, to the weather conditions, to their own bodily functions failing, to then having to trek through mountainous terrain. To point out, if any one of the those situations failed, they were dead, so focusing on the cannibalism portion does feel somewhat leaning towards sensationalism, though I'm sure the investors had to sell tickets for the morbidly curious.

Rating: 4/10

Director: Rene Cardona (Night of the Bloody Apes)
Link: IMDB

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