Film review: Swiss Army Man
When the premise is basically, farting corpse saves suicidal man, it makes you wonder how Swiss Army Man got approval to be made. Directed by Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, Swiss Army Man is an absurd, over the top film that feels so stupid that it is just brilliant and enjoyable in a weird sort of way.
With an array of visual gags involving farts, spits, and dick jokes Swiss Army Man seems to play upon elements which seem, on the surface, stereotypically popular with teenage boys and primary school-aged children. It’s crude, possibly offensive, but there’s something else there. In my mind perhaps Swiss Army Man alludes to a tale of morality, challenges social norms and is representative of the absurdity of relationships which come in many forms including the bromance be it one between a suicidal man Hank (Paul Dano) and a corpse with superpowers (Daniel Radcliffe).
There is no doubting the attraction of big name stars Dano and Radcliffe in marketing this film, which seems to have divided audiences who either a) love this type of shit or b) think this has a totally fucked premise.
Perhaps lingering is the scent of regret for some who squirm upon seeing something socially taboo blasted out on screen and used as a major element to the story. It’s a bold move to have created a story that shows appreciation of shunned bodily functions such as farting in public and spitting on others. Swiss Army Man looks to the disused, discarded elements of our society, not just in regards to bodily excrement but an appreciation of trash. It’s literal trash talk in which characters literally talk about trash and question why people throw things away. Perhaps promoting the reuse or repurpose of recyclable or unwanted material, the question that the film poses to audiences is in essence, ‘is it shit or does it serve a purpose?’.
Although the film does not aim to be realistic, there are some serious themes found within Swiss Army Man, which are addressed including dealing with one’s morality, unrequited love and a tale of friendship between two characters. Beyond the stupid humour, I found this inspiring as it reminded me that sometimes you’ve got to be silly and outrageous to cut through social stigma.
The film which opens with a depressed Hank (Dano) who is attempting suicide. It is something which ignites a dark tone within the story because it seems sometimes talking about mental illness is still seen as taboo. The absurdity of a corpse washing ashore, as a sort of purification or cleansing of the mind perhaps, is an outrageous conclusion that can be drawn, but I think that strange films like Swiss Army Man can perhaps provide a launching pad for discussion of socially taboo issues for those who disguise or hide parts of themselves due to pride.
Manny’s (Radcliffe) statement of, ‘If you hide your farts what else are you hiding from me?’ alludes perhaps to a culture of secrecy contained within rules and social norms or ways of being. Perhaps I’m just overthinking a little but I think in my mind there’s something there. Just like the ability of Manny’s dick to guide Hank home, Swiss Army Man may be a hard sell for some but it’s a somewhat meaningful tale which spits out the purpose of living a meaningful life packaged in the form of fart jokes.
Swiss Army Man screens as part of the Sydney Film Festival. For more about SFF and to buy tickets, head to their website: http://www.sff.org.au/ The film also gets an Australian release on July 14.
Review by Addy Fong.