‘Swiss Army Man’ – A Flatulent Odyssey
2016 will certainly be remembered for its handful of unorthodox gems. From the unsettling aura in the masterful The Witch to the disturbing imagery in The Neon Demon, the trend succeeds on endless levels. Enter Swiss Army Man, often labeled as the “farting corpse” movie, which it too accomplishes such eccentric storytelling.
Paul Dano plays Hank, a young man lost at sea who’s on the brink of suicide. The act is stopped when Hank notices a corpse (Daniel Radcliffe) that washed up on shore. But it’s no ordinary corpse. Radcliffe’s Manny has a tendency to fart uncontrollably. Initially, the concept is uncomfortable to watch. And yes, the first idea that comes to mind is that Swiss Army Man will propel itself on juvenile antics. But that’s not the case at all. Swiss Army Man hinges on the touching odyssey of returning home and finding oneself along the way.
Along the way, we learn what drove Hank to his near-death starting point which opened up the film. Fortunately, with Manny as his metaphorical missing piece, we begin to understand why this premise is as strange as it sounds. That’s the deeper level of Radcliffe’s Manny. On the surface, as the title suggests, he is the multi-purpose tool guy with various unique talents. Besides the excess flatulence, Manny’s also provides water, acts as a machine gun and chops wood with his bare hand. And his unmentionables also act as compass too.
While it’s difficult to say that mouthful with a straight face, the raw bond between Hank and Manny anchors whatever realism remains in Swiss Army Man. Hanks assists Manny, who’s dead on the outside, to find his spark and vice-versa. Manny even become infatuated with a girl (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) on Hank’s phone. Hank cross-dresses as her to perhaps ignite a memory or feelings inside of Manny. The concept is a difficult one to pull off, albeit borderline creepy. Still, with the top-notch chemistry between Dano and Radcliffe, we’re treated one of the most credible friendships on-screen in a very long time. It’s essential as the majority of the film is just Dano and Radcliffe trekking home.
As one of the major themes of the film, Swiss Army Man hold nothing back. And one should expect no less from co-writer and directors Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan (credited as “Daniels”). The Daniels go against so many norms, stamping the film with oddity after oddity that it works to its advantage. Even in interviews, the Daniels explain that they utilized thematic elements they typically hide like flatulence and ultimately made it work. There is so much more than this being labeled the “farting corpse” movie out of the Sundance Film Festival. The Daniels’ screenplay explores what it means to be human and what happens when a part of you is missing.
Swiss Army Man demands to be seen multiple times to gather the full picture. The first instance may seem awkward, but once you start pulling back the layers of the well-crafted screenplay, the sheer power of its storytelling is much stronger. And as Swiss Army Man approaches the third act, a clear interpretation is even harder to nail down.
There’s plenty to question about in Swiss Army Man between our main character’s grasp of reality to sexually-driven corpse. But one shouldn’t have any doubts how its genuine storytelling perfectly fits alongside such a strange odyssey.
Swiss Army Man’s AVC 1080p transfer from Lionsgate is fairly solid. It feels natural in a sense as the entire film occurs outdoors, though there is a slight touch of grain. The transfer is greatly detailed in both day and night scenes, capturing the genuine vibes of being stuck out in nature. The campfire scene at the night and Hank riding Manny as a jet-ski at the beginning are both highlights.
Featuring a Dolby Atmos and Dolby TrueHD 7.1 tracks, Swiss Army Man is equally matched in audio. Dialogue is clearly coherent, while some background noise in underplayed to a degree. The score by Andy Hull and Robert McDowell is well on-point, especially during the “Montage” sequence.
Swiss Army Man is modest on supplemental content. The audio commentary with the Daniels and the Production and Sound Designer are one the biggest assets to the combo pack. As is the hour-long Q&A with the filmmakers. There’s also 10 minutes worth of deleted scenes as well as a featurette on “Making Manny.”