Swiss Army Man is without a doubt an odd film, however it would be a mistake to write it off – as others have – for purely that reason. The oddest thing about it is that Daniel Radcliffe plays a farting corpse. This seems at first glance like a gimmick, but mostly-dead Manny is the driving force of the story. If Manny hadn’t turned up Hank would have killed himself, if it weren’t for Manny’s special powers, Hank would have died in a multitude of other ways, and, most importantly, if Manny wasn’t so curious about life, Hank wouldn’t have acknowledged life’s delights and arbitrary rules. The film gets its heart from the friendship of the two characters as they help each other become more alive.
Dano and Radcliffe make a great partnership. For Dano, the role isn’t out of place next to his other work; Hank embodies the sensitivity and anxiousness of the modern young man. Radcliffe conversely (and obviously) breaks type quite considerably, embracing both the requirement for physical acting and the ill-defined parameters of Manny’s abilities. Manny’s basic understanding of what he is told makes him brash and unapologetic, a perfect foil for Hank.
Something must also be said of the film’s use of rubbish art, which Hank creates to explain aspects of life to Manny. These sculptures and props give the film a richer visual tone and subtly make reference to the film’s theme of life after death, in that the rubbish is finding a new purpose after its intended one.
This film isn’t about a farting corpse, it is about questioning what’s normal and being bold. When you have this in mind, you begin to see the complexity and thoughtfulness which makes Swiss Army Man great.
CAST: Paul Dano, Daniel Radcliffe, Mary Elizabeth Winstead
DIRECTORS: Dan Kwan, Daniel Scheinert
WRITERS: Dan Kwan, Daniel Scheinert
SYNOPSIS: Stranded on a desert island, Hank is at the end of his tether. Ready to hang himself, he is saved by the appearance of of the least likely of heroes: a corpse.