A man lost in the wilderness finds new hope when a bewildering body washes up on shore in 'Swiss Army Man.' VPC
What can be said about Swiss Army Man? Crowds of people have already scoured their towns to find theaters playing this absurd indie comedy in the few short weeks it’s been out. People are clearly interested in seeing Daniel Radcliffe’s dead corpse used as a human survival kit, whether through morbid curiosity or an honest appreciation of the strange and surreal in cinema. Whatever brings you to see the film, I can promise you that this movie-going experience is one unlike you’ve ever had.
I first found out about the film after the band Manchester Orchestra, which scored the film, posted about it on social media. All I knew going in was that Daniel Radcliffe played a farting corpse and that the music would be fantastic. I’m not here to advertise the band, but the first thing to notice about the film is definitely the music. Before Daniel Radcliffe’s dead body starts farting, a beautiful chorus builds from around the lonely protagonist Hank, played by Paul Dano. The non-diagetic score erupts from sounds that are created by the characters themselves, which instantly envelops the viewer in a world that is simultaneously surreal and authentic. It prepares us to approach the coming weirdness with a grounded familiarity.
Swiss Army Man chronicles the journey of an island castaway who is on the brink of suicide due to his excruciating boredom when he stumbles upon the washed-up body of a man who seems to be long-deceased. Hank, the castaway, finds a friend in the corpse and uses his new friend — whose name is discovered to be Lenny — to find hope and even a way home. This narrative plays out differently than one might expect, which means a lot for audience members going into a movie expecting something very non-traditional. The perspectives about the world that we are exposed to through Lenny challenge what we are typically taught to believe is socially acceptable. The friendship developed by the unlikely pair in the harsh wilderness is heartwarming as it is weird. Swiss Army Man uses a dead body to deliver refreshingly human emotions.
Swiss Army Man is not a movie for everyone. It’s vulgar and strange and doesn’t present us with a typical pair of protagonists. But it is a unique adventure and a highly original film that stands out among the regular fare of summer features. Its dream-like qualities are punctuated by skilled cinematography and directing by newcomers who are sure to make an impact in cinema for years to come. The editing is skilled and precise, and the score will most likely get some buzz in the coming Oscar months. If you get the chance to see Swiss Army Man, go do it. It’ll leave a smile on your face whether you like or not.
Patrick Garcia-Jurado is a fifth-year BFA film major at UCF.