Two years ago I was going through a phase. I would only watch movies with deep philosophical meaning. The likes of To Kill a Mockingbird, Fight Club, Inception etc. I had heard of a movie that had just come out called Snow Piercer starring Captain America’s Chris Evans and one of my favorite actors; the late John Hurt. It was described to me as deep and metaphorical.
I loved it so much that I bought it!
Silly me didn’t know that the story I had begun to love actually originated in my favorite story medium- graphic novels.
Recently I picked up the comic, eager to read a better version (I hoped) of the movie, Snow Piercer.
First things first.
The graphic novel and the movie don’t follow the same beats at all… at least in this first volume. It’s not to say I didn’t like it, I just had to readjust my thinking, freshen my senses and learn new characters and roughly a new plot.
Lots of things remain the same however. It’s still about the last of humanity, living on a giant train that never stops. Society is explained in a straight line. At the front of the train, you have the rich and at the back you have the poor.
What ‘ended’ the world is never properly explained. It’s implied a war broke out that had a huge effect on the climate. The whole world’s frozen up. Only those in the ‘warm’ train survive.
When I say survive, it only really applies to those who live to the front of the train. The survivors at the back experience horrors apparently to disturbing to show, only that they are treated like caged chickens.. except they don’t have the luxury of dying like one. They die from starvation, infection, freezing and a lack of air. There is meant to be a lot more unjustified things happening back there but sadly we never get to read or see what they are.
I would of liked to have seen more of the back passengers in order to empathise more with the characters escape. But with so little said or shown, It left a lot to open interpretation.
Maybe this was on purpose as no character is truly a villain. The story follows a man named Proloff as he journeys his way from the back of the train to the front. He is neither a hero nor a villain. They each have a part to play on the train and though their tactics are often rash, it doesn’t paint a world that much different from how our society is today. Perhaps if we were shown the true horrors of the “back” we wouldn’t empathise with any other character which is lucky because it’s in the relatability of each character that makes this comic a must read.
Jean-Marc’s art is superb! Everything is brought to life in beautiful shades of black and white that will make you forget about the lack of colour. The art portrays each scene in realistic detail and let’s make no mistake, this graphic novel isn’t for children, among the frequent swearing, there is also a fair amount of nudity. But it always serves a purpose, even if that purpose is just to show how ‘normal’ things have become on the train. It never feels exaggerated or overused.
Both movie and graphic novel show a fantastic job our complex world of politics and economics shrunk down into a easy to understand ‘train’. We can’t hate the ‘upper class’ because some people fit in there. Like many on the train, we all feel pity on the poor but only care to be an observer.
What is Snow Piercer? It’s a story about the world. humanity. It’s ugly side. It’s justified side and everything in between.
This graphic novel shows humanity in a light you may be too ashamed to consider. But if you let it, it can give food for thought and perhaps even enlightenment.