Daniel Scheinert, Daniel Kwan / Paul Dano , Daniel Radcliffe, May Elizabeth Winstead / Adventure / 2016 / 15 / 97mins
Directors Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan have never forayed into feature films before, their most famous venture being the music video for ‘Turn Down For What’, and THAT was a hell of a video. The trend continues here – Swiss Army Man ranks as one of the strangest films of recent times.
Hank (Paul Dano), marooned on a desert islan, is about to commit suicide. Suddenly, a body (Daniel Radcliffe) washes ashore, and it can’t stop farting. Hank rides the corpse like a jetski (yes, he really does) to escape his sandy tomb. Once on the mainland, Hank realises the corpse can speak – revealing his name to be Manny. Hank begins teaching Manny the wonders of the world as they slowly make their way back to civilisation.
Swiss Army Man gets off to a blistering start – it’s no longer than five minutes before normality shatters before your eyes. And there’s so much to talk about. Almost every detail is a symbol, or could well be. This is indie at it’s most intricate, much of it subtly, quietly genius.
Firstly, let’s dicuss the two actors in question. Dano and Radcliffe have a remarkable partnership. Not that Radcliffe has much to do, but he clearly relishes it, as does his American counterpart. Their intimate discussions and a key ‘breath of life’ scene could easily give a queer reading of Swiss Army Man – their isolation compounds that idea. A disturbing fascination for Sarah (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), their re-enactments, the drag scenes, all pool together with Hank’s Early Learning Centre lessons for Manny. It’s borderline ritualistic, a biographical rollercoaster flashing before our eyes, forcing us to think again about life, death and everything in between.
The Daniels borrow heavily from the Edgar Wright schol of quickfire editing, which perfectly encapsulates the hectic wildness of the madcap onscreen duo and their equally bizarre imagination. Even with hindsight, there’s no better portrayal of the story – varied shots are needed to capture the eclecticism of the script.
Topped off with an ending that has Fight Club hallmarks isn’t necessarily a good move. It was baffling. Hell, everything was perpetually baffling. The Daniels stick two great big fingers up at you and laugh, and I couldn’t help but laugh with them.
Impossible to categorise and hard to love on first viewing, Swiss Army Man won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. But this is what films should do: challenge you and give you an escape from the everyday. That is exactly what Swiss Army Man does. And it’s weird. Utterly, utterly weird. But brilliant.
Film as a Film – 4 / Target Audience – 4 / General Audience – 3
Swiss Army Man is available on DVD and On Demand
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