One of the new indie films that made a lasting impression on moviegoers this summer was the American comedy/drama/fantasy film Swiss Army Man. It was written and directed by Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, known collectively as the Daniels, and it stars Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe. Its world premiere was at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival on January 22, 2016 and it was released to the public on July 1. The film, for the most part, has been positively received by critics.
Swiss Army Man is a disarmingly strange movie about a suicidal man and a flatulent corpse. Hank (Dano) is stranded on a deserted island and is ready to put an end to his suffering when he spies a body washed up on the shore. His own problems momentarily forgotten, Hank rushes to help only to discover it is a corpse who possesses the ability to talk, amongst other supernatural talents. Hank decides to name the talking corpse Manny (Radcliffe) and they quickly become good friends. Together they escape the island and try to make their way back to civilization with the help of Manny’s odd abilities.
The directors, Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, set out to make a film that pushes boundaries and confronts the concept of what is and isn’t socially acceptable. In general, passing gas is not considered an appropriate thing to do even though it is a natural bodily function that everyone does. Yet it is because of Manny’s excessive amount of gas that Hank is finally able to escape the deserted island by riding the corpse toward civilization like a motorboat. The thing that usually causes the feelings of shame and disgust in a person, instead brings inspiration and a hope for freedom.
Death is also an uncomfortable topic that is not generally talked about even though it is a very real and an inevitable part of life. Out of all the things that could have washed up on Hank’s island, it was a corpse. It is not only ironic but also a very impactful image to have Hank’s only salvation for his life and freedom be a dead body. A corpse, a lifeless thing that no longer has a potential or use, is the exact thing that saves Hank’s life again and again.
Swiss Army Man is about more than just a farting corpse. It is a movie with a lot of heart, exemplifying the intricacies of the the human experience and what it means to be alive. Through Manny’s outlook on life and his unique abilities, Hank is able to find a way to live and keep going despite his loneliness and despair. If a corpse can find enough meaning in life to try to keep living, then surely a person who is still very much alive can as well. Despite the hardships and embarrassments that are bound to happen, it is the innate, unmentionable things each person experiences that makes life worth living. Once the things that are thought to be taboo are accepted as nothing to be ashamed of, only then can a person feel truly comfortable with who they are in their own skin. Swiss Army Man is a prime example of how life can change for the better when a person accepts the things that make a human truly human, allowing them to approach their life with a newfound sense of confidence and happiness.