Flatlined, Flatulent & Forgotten (Film Review: “Swiss Army Man”)

In a movie that defies every parent’s warning never to play with dead things, Swiss Army Man proves that corpses are people, too.

 

SnapShot Plot

If the farting reindeer conceit in my Christmas movie pick, Get Santa, was too lowbrow or scatological for your (refined) tastes, you’ll be horrified at how central and decidedly hilarious is the flatulence at the heart (or elsewhere) of Daniel Radcliffe’s corpse in the film, Swiss Army Man. This is by far the most unique and wildly inventive film I’ve seen in a long time, with performances by Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe that will leave you charmed, breathless, and ultimately quite moved. Just hang on for the ride; it’s worth it.

Paul Dano plays Hank, who we meet straightaway as he’s working up the nerve to hang himself on a lone stretch of forsaken beach, and who closely resembles the Tom Hanks character in Castaway (coincidental name choice?) before Wilson appeared in his world. Instead of a soccer ball, however, what does wash ashore at the very last moment is a quite dead body (Daniel Radcliffe) fully clothed with no I.D. but a good sturdy belt which can help Hank finish the job. But then, the strangest thing happens; the dead guy starts shaking in small fits of flatulence that are so, well, pronounced it’s impossible to explain away as the natural decomposition of a rotting corpse. What follows is a buddy film, a bromance, call it what you want, but the bond that forms between Hank and Manny (as he’s named by Hank) although cloaked in fantasy and surrealism, is more real and nakedly honest than any relationship Hank’s ever had in his previous life. And what he discovers about the many powers that reside in Manny’s incredible, yet dead, body – hence the title Swiss Army Man – may just save Hank’s life. . . and soul.

 

 

Parting Shot

This weird and wonderful feature debut from the film-making team Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (a.k.a. The Daniels) won the directing prize at Sundance last January. Although the title – Swiss Army Man – is apt, given how many useful and practical functions the dead body of Manny provides Hank, in Hollywood it was basically referred to as ‘Daniel Radcliffe’s farting corpse’ movie. All kidding aside, though, this movie (if you let it) really gets under your skin and speaks to the loneliness and longing which resides in us all. It’s beautifully shot, with inventive set designs that are real and fantastical, and scenes of natural beauty juxtaposed with real danger. The entire film was shot in a record 22 days, in fact. Quite something when you consider the sheer physicality in these performances for both Dano and Radcliffe, who was both convincingly ‘dead’ and similarly ‘re-animated’ in wild and crazy ways.

What really makes the movie feel magical, though, is the music. The somber, soulful, suspenseful and silly musical score in Swiss Army Man was written and performed by Andy Hull and Robert McDowell of Manchester Orchestra (and sometimes with Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe joining in). Here’s a sampler:

 

Swiss Army Man is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

YouTube Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yrK1f4TsQfM

YouTube Video featuring music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mm9UNQr8iyY

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