swiss-army-man

If the thought of Daniel Radcliffe’s flatulent corpse being ridden like a high powered Jet Ski by Paul Dano sounds too outrageous, then the absurdist existential Swiss Army Man is not the film for you. Frankly it is only going to get weirder, much weirder, from there. Directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, known as The Daniels, have constructed a debut film with such a singular and astonishing vision that they, much like Spike Jonze before them, could care less what the masses think. The first fifteen minutes alone feels like a litmus test for the audience. The juvenile humour is ramped up to not only establish the groundwork for things to come, but also to weed out those who might not have the fortitude to stick with Swiss Army Man’s offbeat ride through human existence.

The Daniels do not offer many answers for how Hank (Dano) found himself stranded on an isolated island, nor do they shed much light on what caused Manny’s (Radcliffe) demise. All that is known is that Manny’s corpse washes up on shore just as Hank gives up all hope of being rescued. Oddly compelled by the presence of Manny’s gas emitting body, and desperate for companionship of any form, Hank decides to carry Manny along as he tries to figure out a way to back to civilization.

Sharing his thoughts and fears with Manny’s lifeless body, Hank is shocked to discover that his new pal might not be dead after all. Slowly regaining the power to speak, and a host of other handy abilities, Manny proves to be quite a revelation. As if tasked with explaining the complex nature of humanity to an alien, Hank attempts to teach Manny the ways of the world while unexpectedly learning something about himself in the process.

One of the strangest and most original celebrations of life I have seen in years, Swiss Army Man is a film that is deceptive in both its design and construction. Similar to Kevin Smith’s Dogma, on the surface, the film can be viewed as nothing more than a series of penis and fart jokes. However, to dismiss it as such would be short-sighted. Furthermore, this type of rejection plays into the societal hang-ups that The Daniels are clearly rallying against. Just as Hank must learn to stop living in his head and let go, both mentally and physically, of his fear of judgement; the creative directing duo want us to do the same.

Treating Tarō Gomi Japanese children’s book Everyone Poops like the preferred gospels we should all follow, The Daniels bring a childlike sense of wonder to this imaginative tale. There is something magical about the visual splendor that comes with watching Manny and Hank construct their imaginary utopian society while isolated from the real world. It is there where they can work up the nerve to talk to the girl on the bus (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), without fear of rejection. The fascinating thing is that, aside from the fantastical elements like a grappling hook spitting human, The Daniels skillfully display that the type of beautiful world Hank and Manny crave already exists, but everyone is just too blinded by their individual insecurities and fears to see it. Life is indeed for the living, but we are not living it to the fullest.

Unlike anything you have seen before, or will likely see again, Swiss Army Man wholeheartedly embraces its own unique path. A funny, touching, and dizzying experience, the visually dazzling film has many interesting things to say about friendship, family, love, and all the things that make life worth living. It may be unabashedly crude and childish, but aren’t we all at various points in our life. After all, life would be so much more rewarding if we just embraced our similarities and stopped worrying about our differences.

Swiss Army Man opens in theaters on Friday, July 1, 2016

11 Comments

  1. I’ve been following this one for a while and love hearing audience reactions. I haven’t caught it yet since I’ve been at the wrong festivals but look forward to seeing it soon. I love your take on it and it’s refreshed my interest!

    1. The film is will no doubt divide audiences down the mild. It played well in my screening, but some were clearly put off by the film’s unique approach. The fact that it goes to some dark places near the end did not help matters either.

      1. I’m sure. I do tend to commit the crime of liking things just for being different. I get burned out on Hollywood and have never been overly fond of blockbusters and here we are about to reach summer’s height and so a farting corpse movie just sounds refreshing to me!

  2. Nice review! I really want to see this one, glad to hear you liked it! There are so many films out there that don’t break any new ground, it’s refreshing to have something completely and utterly different out there.

  3. Like The Lobster. I feel that this one too will divide audiences and that makes it on the top of my list to see. I like reading that there is a lot of heart to all the dick and fart humor in this

  4. Great review! I’m really looking forward to this one. It looks like a breath of fresh air. And after seeing Neon Demon, I doubt this is too outrageous 🙂 haha

    1. I am happy to see that both this film and Neon Demon (which I still need to see) are being released during the summer season. They provide a nice break from all the blockbuster films being released each week.

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