Swiss Army Man is essentially a fart joke stretched out over an hour and a half. The movie had audience members walking out in disgust during its initial showing at Sundance, despite directors Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (known as the Daniels) taking home the Best Director award at Sundance that year. Despite Swiss Army Man’s somewhat bizarre, off-putting premise, the film is truly enjoyable, even relatable on an odd level.
At heart Swiss Army Man is a story of loneliness. The main character Hank, portrayed by Paul Dano, is lost at sea and abandoned on an island as a result of running away. The picture of exactly how lonely Hank is shown perfectly in the film’s opening scenes, when the audience is introduced to him on the brink of hanging himself. Only the appearance of Daniel Radcliffe’s blue and bloated corpse is enough to make him pause, running eagerly towards the askew figure with hopes that another person will be trapped with him.
This brilliant description of pure loneliness is woven throughout the film, as we see Radcliffe’s corpse, Manny, begin to come back to life. The entire thing is reminiscent of Cast Away, except throughout Swiss Army Man we’re never quite sure whether Manny (the ‘Wilson’ in this scenario) is actually beginning to reanimate or if Hank is simply falling further into a pit of depression and despair, desperate for companionship.
Swiss Army Man draws you in tightly. Paul Dano as Hank is essentially every Paul Dano character in an indie film, which works surprisingly well, and it seems as if the role was written directly for him. His bleak outlook draws a heavy empathy when viewing, and by the end it’s easy to forget that his character may simply just be slowly going a little crazy, something proven further when the props and scenery that is created by Hank and littering their forest camp is discovered and viewed by outsiders. Throughout the film the handmade structures seem cosy and quaint, reminiscent of the outside world, once viewed from the eyes of police and Hank’s father they become weird and odd to the audience.
Swiss Army Man is a truly unique film, from the memorable acapella soundtrack, to the fluctuant corpse. Which in this year of reboots, franchises, remakes and comic book movies, can be a hard thing to find. Thinking back on the film will leave you almost confused, though highly entertained, as the premise seems crazy. Which it is, this doesn’t stop it however from being a fantastic, not to be missed film.
Swiss Army Man is showing exclusively at Cinema Nova from July 14th.
Tickets can be purchased here.