Swiss Army Man




Two men on an existential journey features farting yet calls to mind the work of Samuel Beckett.


Swiss Army Man

Dead reckoning: Paul Dano and the body of Daniel Radcliffe


Few first features display the degree of unconventional individuality to be found in Swiss Army Man written and directed by Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan who bill themselves as The Daniels. Given the lack of subtlety in modern-day film comedy, it might be thought that a film which emphasises farting as much as this one does and which reverts not infrequently to jokes concerning masturbation and erections was not so much out of the ordinary. Yet gross-out comedy is not the point here: instead this is a film that expresses concern for people who are weird and feel it, but who under the surface may be no different from many others.


A totally stylised work (unless you regard the greater part of it as portraying hallucinations experienced by a man in extremis), Swiss Army Man is set on an island where Hank (Paul Dano) is on the point of hanging himself when he is distracted by a body washed up on the shore. The corpse is that of Manny (Daniel Radcliffe) who still has some form of life represented by his farting and who, before long is able to talk and to use strange powers that help to keep the starving Hank going. Together they set out in an attempt to get to what Hank thinks of as home and to his girl named Sarah.


Virtually a two-hander, the film's jokiness is only on the surface for the companionship that they establish as they talk of their repressions and their lack of self-confidence leads on to an awareness of the importance of being close to another person in a way that goes beyond any particular sexuality and indeed, beyond the sexual. Perhaps Dano just has the edge over Radcliffe here, but both actors are on great form while the Daniels have commissioned an unusual and telling music score. Against the odds, it all seems to be working until late on when an episode that reminds one of The Revenant (2015) intrudes and, from that point on the film seems uncertain of where it wants to go. In contrast to The Wizard of Oz it may be asserting that home is not best, but the final stages here are confusing. That's a pity, but this is a film which, without waiting, can instantly be hailed as a cult movie: see it, argue about it, decide on your own interpretation and, if necessary, see it more than once.  




Cast: Paul Dano, Daniel Radcliffe, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Antonia Ribero, Timothy Eulich, Richard Gross.

Dir Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan, Pro Lawrence Inglee, Jonathan Wang, Miranda Bailey and Amanda Marshall,  Screenplay Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan, Ph Larkin Seiple, Pro Des Jason Kisvarday, Ed Matthew Hannam, Music Andy Hull and Robert McDowell, Costumes Stephani Lewis.

Tadmor/Astrakan Film AB/Cold Iron Pictures/Blackbird Films-Picturehouse Entertainment.
97 mins. USA 2016. Rel: 30 September 2016. Cert. 15