‘Swiss Army Man’ BluRay Review: Not For Everyone, But A Gloriously Affecting Film
Swiss Army Man, a 2016 comedy-drama film directed by Daniel Kwan starring Daniel Radcliffe and Paul Dano, is not a movie for everyone. But for those who do appreciate it, it is a wondrous piece of art.
The film opens with Hank (Dano), a man stranded on an island, as Hank is about to hang himself, since he is unable to find a way to civilization. As Hank is about to suffocate, he sees a man (Radcliffe) lying on the beach. Hank sprints over and tries to resuscitate the man, but the man appears dead, and responds with only a loud, jarring fart. Hank is disheartened once more. However, an oncoming wave washes over the man, and Hank watches in disbelief as the man is propelled on the water by his farts. Hank mounts the corpse and traverses across the ocean, suspended on the water by the corpses’s flatulence.
This is a divisive point in the movie. Viewers usually either dismiss the film as too strange to continue watching, or are perplexed and curious enough to stick with it. The latter group shall be rewarded, as the film turns out to be much more meaningful than it first appears.
The pair land on another island, which is also far from civilization. There, Hank discovers that the corpse has another power: it can dispense clean drinking water. The corpse also begins to speak, much to Hank’s shock, and after some exchanges, Hank names the corpse Manny. Manny has forgotten everything about his former life, so it’s up to Hank to teach him the fundamentals of life.
As Hank and Manny continue their search for civilization, Hank teaches Manny the joys of eating out, going to movies, and partying, using props he constructed out of plants and garbage. Hank also teaches Manny what’s considered socially acceptable behavior, which gives rise to many hilarious moments. A central activity the film focuses on is the act of farting.
When Hank tells Manny that you can’t fart in front of other people back at home, because “it’s weird,” Manny is perplexed and asks if that’s why Hank won’t fart in front of him. Hank responds, “No, I just like to do it alone or I hold it in. That’s what you’re supposed to do.” Manny replies: “That’s so sad. What are we even going back home for? It sounds like you’re not allowed to do anything back there.”
Farting, of course, represents something deeper than flatulence. It stands for all the things we’re naturally inclined to do, and that we enjoy, but we don’t do anymore because of society’s rules.
When Hank explains to Manny the concept of love, saying, “You look for someone who’ll make you happy — a friend, a girlfriend, or a dog,” Manny excitedly responds, “You want to go home so you can have love. But you ran away because nobody loves you. You’re broken and empty and dirty and smelly and old. You’re like trash!”
Throughout their quest for civilization, the two become great friends. Hank tells Manny about a woman he was in love with, Sarah, but Hank had always been too afraid to talk to her, worried that he’ll make a mistake and say something stupid.
Through their many adventures, Manny shows Hank that the way he was living his life before wasn’t really being alive at all. The irony is clearly not coincidental: it took a dead man to bring Hank back to life. This idea is exemplified in a scene when Manny saves a drowning Hank by transferring oxygen from his mouth to Hank’s. A dead man quite literally breathed life into Hank.
The film is brimming with other symbolic nuggets, and artfully conveys them in moving ways. The movie is strange and whimsical and profound all at once, punctuated by magical realism and emotional scenes that’ll have you questioning the way you live your life.
Chris Hewitt from Empire raved, “The premise sounds like an off-Broadway play gone wrong. Far from it — this is extraordinary, vital, and fueled by great performances.”
A user from Metheepic raved, “Swiss army man is my favorite movie, only a few hours after I saw it. It’s truly magical, one of the most enchanting experiences of my life. I was the only person clapping at the end; this film gave me the courage to think that’s okay. This movie is more than good; It changed my life. Watch it.”
While Swiss Army Man may not be a film that appeals to everyone, one thing it’s not is cliched or trite. It is a majestic movie that transcends genres to deliver its powerful message: fart when you want to, and have the courage to be yourself.