Swiss Army Man‘s reputation precedes itself. When you reanimate the corpse of our cinematic Harry Potter, Daniel Radcliffe, and have his arsehole barking out more noises than the guy from Police Academy, you’d expect the attention. Add a few choice adverts with Paul Dano’s bearded castaway Hank joyously riding Radcliffe’s corpse Manny as a flatulence powered jet-ski and you’ve got something that’s too tantalising to miss. If you can look (and listen) past your beloved “boy who lived” corpse squirting sphincter morse code to Hank you have an exceptional debut from two exciting young filmmakers: Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (The Daniels). It’s really not since Spike Jonze’s Her that I’ve seen a film that so profoundly gets loneliness, longing and love.
When Hank is on a deserted beach at the end of his rope, ready to end it all he discovers Manny. Manny is a flatulent corpse that begins to interact with Hank and becomes our gateway into Hank’s psyche.
The Daniels rest the film’s success on the broad and capable shoulders of the two wonderful performers at the centre of this chaotic and insane film. Paul Dano is a boa constrictor for the audience. The longer you’re being embraced by Hank’s world the more invested you become. Dano projects warm vulnerability and insecurity through a downright chaotic and deranged exterior.
Daniel Radcliffe is unquestionably incredible as the farting corpse in question Manny. The Daniels use Manny for every purpose possible. He’s a psychological crotch, a mannequin, a substitute friend, a confidant, a fully posable action figure in his interactive projections of memories and dreams. Radcliffe commits so wholly to Hank’s manipulation that you’re able to disassociate his humanity when he’s being used as weapon to fire projectiles out of; and as alive as Hank in the times that the emotions are high.
The Daniel’s ‘music video’ style is perfectly integrated into Swiss Army Man. They layer sounds made by the characters atop indie rock arrangements that underscore montages of Manny and Hank’s travels and one incredibly dizzying set piece that reveals Hank’s love. The Daniel’s are fierce with their choices, and I’m not going to skate too close to the details for fear of ruining the experience. Star Paul Dano said, in a recent interview on the WTF podcast with Marc Maron, that the Daniel’s intent from the idea’s inception was to make a film where farts make you laugh in the beginning of the film and cry by the end.
Swiss Army Man is a rare and splendid debut. The Daniels (including Mr Radcliffe) and the Dano (Mr Paul) guise the profound human connection behind thunderous farts.
Blake Howard – follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman
“If a corpse farts in the woods and no-one’s around, does it make a sound.”
Directed by: Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert
Written by: Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert
Starring: Paul Dano, Daniel Radcliffe and Mary Elizabeth Winstead