In Snowpiercer, human society and culture has existed in this contained system: the train. The front car passengers live in luxury while the tail-enders live in the back forced to survive under what amounts to tyrannical rule. In this scene, Mason (Tilda Swinton) gives a speech in response to an “assault” by Andrew (Ewen Bremmer) who is punished in the horrifying fashion of having his arm frozen off. The speech is limited by the 7 minute time constraint their calculations determine it will take to freeze his arm solid.
When the speech begins, two translators begin interpreting her words before being told that they don’t have time for the “nonsense.” This shows the multi-cultural heterogeneous makeup of the citizens aboard the train, but also the persisting dominance of English. Later in the film, we learn of universal translators , but the tail-enders are barely given food, so a luxury such as that would not be used.
The tone of the speech is delivered with such a condescending attitude and juxtaposed against the horrific screams of poor Andrew. Mason, and the entire crew behind them, completely lacks empathy for the torture they are subjecting this man to, because by their code of morals, disrespect of the poor to the privileged is more important.
“Order is the barrier that holds back the thrall’s of death.” The purpose of the speech is that order must be kept in this society, and as such there will be a population that struggles and suffers for the comfort of an elite few. While all of human civilization has crumbled, this aspect is what has been retained by their new leaders. There isn’t even a cause for currency anymore, with the front section passengers basically inheriting their spots, and the tail-enders only being “promoted” on a whim for the need of a trained violinist or a cleaning servant. “So it is.”
The class inequality in the film is highlighted by the restricted nature of their society. The marginalized poor exist only yards away, not in another country or the deep inner city. And yet, from what we see in the rest of the film, they are easily ignored and forgotten by the rest of society until the revolution happens.
In this scene, we get a glimpse into how the “Front-enders” live. The song that they sing has become so ingrained, potentially played daily from how well rehearsed the children, and Mason, are.Immediately before this , we are shown a propaganda film about Wilfred’s train that is used to indoctrinate the new generation on the train about how wonderful their leader is. This is analogous to North Korean propaganda films, with Wilfred being called “Divine” and “Merciful” throughout the film. The song, and it’s rehearsed nature, can also be seen as an analog to the American Pledge of Allegiance, which is taught to children long before they are aware of the definitions of the words contained within. Propaganda plays an important aspect in how people are controlled to maintain order. While it may not be the vicarious punishment the tail-enders are subjected to, it is still useful in keeping the population in order. And in the world of Snowpiercer, many in power believe order is all that is keeping humanity alive.