Going into Swiss Army Man, you cannot help but be prepared for the preposterous narrative at hand. I mean, the narrative is simple, well, kind of simple…well, not really.
The newest film to feature the actor who once played one of the most magical and profitable wizards in the film world, seems to have taken another role which would add to his very large attempt of leaping him away, and disassociating himself afar from that world altogether. What better way to do it than play a kinda/sorta dead corpse who farts his way to safety, guides his best friend Hank (Paul Dano) with the use of his erection, and vulgars his dialogue at every instance with the female reproductive system.
Okay so, lets try to get this right, as best as possible.
Swiss Army Man tells the story of Hank, played by Paul Dano, a man who seems to be deserted on an island, with barely any willingness to live. Moments before he is about to kill himself, he sees a body washed upon the shore. Unbuckling the belt tied around his neck, he makes his way to the deceased body. Upon the discovery that the body is in fact dead, he hears the body pop up random farts and sounds, giving the illusion of life at times. Disillusioned by the body altogether, he salvages it and begins using it as a purpose to live.
Dressing the corpse up, talking to it and interacting with it, Hank seems to have found a new purpose, that is until, the body, Manny (Daniel Radcliffe) begins to talk back. In a panic, Hank punches the corpse and runs away. Shortly after, Manny begins inhabiting certain skills and tools needed for Hank’s survival, these skills include; farting fire, slingshotting stuff, axing things, etc. But don’t get it twisted, the body is still dead. As the relationship between Manny and Hank begins to intensify, Hank shares with Manny the truths about women, sex and the world, revolving each and every story around the love of Hank’s life, Sarah (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). As the days pass and the hope for survival begins to become more real, Hank soon realizes that, Manny may just be the soul-mate he has always hoped for and desired.
Going into the film, I could already tell that the movie was going to play quite loosely with one of my most examined and tropes of cinema; augmented reality with reality itself. Just by looking at the trailers, the film blends quite effortlessly the seriousness of a stranded man, with the imagination of a man who creates an entity needed for his survival; Manny essentially becomes the Wilson to Tom Hank’s character in Cast Away. In only difference is, Wilson never spoke back, interacted or physically helped Chuck Nolan to survive. Now, the film is obviously saying a lot and making a huge statement about mental health. Is Hank sick? Is there even a body? What is his relationship with the people outside this island? Who is Sarah to Hank? All these question, although never really fully answered, are given weight towards the understanding of a very, either sick, or extremely passionate man.
One my biggest pet peeves about the use of imagination in cinema is when it tries to justify itself as reality. It really isn’t that hard; any Marvel movie made from this point on, tries to provide some sort of justification how any of the stuff can happen, within the mythos of the cinematic world to the real world. In other films, say, Warcraft for example, the film establishes itself as work of fictions right away. With Swiss Army Man, the film seems to take itself more seriously than it should, mostly at all times. Directors Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, who refer to themselves as DanielS, find this very disturbing and at times, tantalizing mix of making the film extremely believable and at time totally and completely and utterly unbelievable, the embodiment of reality can be found no where yet tries to justify itself as such.
The film itself is ridiculous, outrageous and yes, like many have been calling it, unlike anything you have or will ever see on the silver screen, but for once in my life, I don’t necessarily think that that statement is really a good one. I mean, Hank, who goes from one island to a forestry area by riding his dead corpse friend as a jet-ski; Manny fights off bears, he has a erect penis compass, Manny is a swiss army tool of crazy possibilities and it never really digs deep.
While speaking to others about the reception of the film, it does seem to have a very different response out of everyone who sees it. I mean, after all, the DanielS are the men responsible for the outlandish Turn Down for What music video featuring DJ Snake and Lil Jon, and we all know how funny and ludicrous that video is.
There was no doubt in my mind, whilst leaving the cinema, I was ready to destroy the film altogether with a scathing review, propelling whomever I could away from it. Luckily, while thinking about the film, writing this review and discussing it with friends and fellow cinephiles, I have come to the overall realization that the film has a lot to say, after all the tits, ass, cocks, penis and poop talk. Questions arise by the end of the film that allow audiences to question everything that was seen throughout the hour and a half long film, discussing the mental state of people who are love-sicken, stricken of opportunity, bullied and taunted their whole lives; people who can be just like you or me.
The production and making of the film is in no way quite an amazing revelation. With the soundtrack assembled by the very talented Andy Hull of Manchester Orchestra as well as using vocal recordings of the actors, most notably Paul Dano, it is no surprise that Swiss Army Man is a personal film and labour of intense love. Stylistically, the film is quite impressive with hints of Wes Anderson all over it. I would fully admit I loved or even like the film, but I can assure you one thing is for sure, just reiterating the plot line to any one person at a random party, will surely give you quite the reaction. Probably the same reaction to my final thoughts of the film, as well as the last lines of the film, “what the f*ck?”.
Night Film Reviews: 4.5 Out of 10 Stars.
Was Swiss Army Man anything like you were expecting? Better? Worse? Exactly what you thought? How was Radcliffe as the farting, erecting corpse Manny? Dano? Leave your thoughts below without passing much gas.