Swiss Army Man : A Delightful Fart
In one of the most beautiful looking scenes, Manny (Daniel Redcliffe) and lonely & introvert, fractured minded Hank (Paul Dano) lying on the ground, under the bright night sky shimmering with stars, relaxing in front of the bonfire, discussing what they will do once they are back in the city. Manny retaliates Hank in disappointment that it is sad that they can’t ‘fart’ in front of the other people. He proposes Hank why not to stay back in woods if they are not allowed to do things they desire.
If you have heard about “Swiss Army Man”, then you already know Daniel Radcliffe is a farting corpse. And there were walkouts during the premiere at Sundance Film Festival. These two facts can be off-putting for many cinephiles. But “Swiss Army Man” has much much more to it than only farts and poop jokes. Though Manny farts more than you can count on finger tips. Screenplay writers and Directors ‘Daniels’ confessed in their interview, “We just felt like if we set the bar real low at the beginning of the movie, then it’s just all uphill.So we start with the farting corpse, and then we just poured our hearts out and made the most fun movie possible after that.“
Farting in the film is like a metaphor. Farting is one of the acts we don’t like doing in front of anyone. In a similar vain like we don’t express ourselves as we are. Being free, still, we are not completely open to human connection. There is always something left undisclosed, with the fear of being judged or type-casted or make you look undesirable.
The film follows Hank, a lonely, depressed man stranded on an island who is on the verge of losing all the hope for survival. Manny’s corpse brings some respite. It brings hope; maybe Manny represents a new found hope. Hank is biologically alive but dead inside, while Manny is dead outside, but he is alive and has clean slate memory that eventually helps Hank to put some sense in his life.
It is like Cast Away with Wilson replaced by Manny. He sees no sign of life, except the rapid decomposition that’s causing Manny to fart. Then starts the loony adventure of hypnotic visuals and childish fantasy.
Manny knows nothing about ‘life’ and ‘civilization.’ Hank takes the job of teaching naive Manny about civilization. It turns into introspection by which Hank starts to examine the insecurities and superficialities of human interpersonal relationships. He realizes all the methods of connecting with the people works only on surface-level, we never get to the bottom of human connection. And it creates an obstacle to getting to the heart of matter. They bond over Jurassic Park, shadow puppetry of classic movies, masturbating session, and mysterious girl named Sarah.
The film is like a dream you wish you had. Every other minute is filled with surprises, creative ideas, and philosophy. Throw in an eclectic, upbeat soundtrack that glorifies the beauty of the film. Add the pinch of social commentary like when Hank bewails, “Before the internet, every girl was a lot more special.”
Every joke and inept conversation start making sense if you dig in a little below the layer. It starts to unravel Hank as a character. It shows the flaws in human and what is wrong with us when we socialize. The film conveys this with honesty and anguished sentiments.
The film deals with morality and the value of life. And that irony is aptly constructed by Manny’s love for life and Hank’s contempt for it. Paul Dano is superlative in his performance. His vulnerability and awkwardness are tangible and evokes the empathy. Daniel Radcliffe demonstrates a wonderful physical performance by only twitching his eye and barely opening his mouth to speak.
“Swiss Army Man” might not appeal to everyone, but there is no denying that film has underlying earnestness and thought-provoking commentary underneath all the farts and gas smell. It is one of the most original films of 2016, a little absurd, but original.