Saturday, 15 October 2016

Dead Dan

Sometimes in life, there are things that are difficult to comprehend and events that are almost beyond words. Today's film is one of those occurences. This is Swiss Army Man.

Hank (Paul Dano) is at the end of his tether. He is marooned on an island with no food, nowhere to go, and no sign of rescue. The camera pans down a rope to his face, a noose fastened around his neck, and he surveys the hopelessness of his situation. Then just before he kicks the stool out from beneath him, he notices a corpse (Daniel Radcliffe) on the beach which is passing wind powerfully enough to propel it through the water. Cue an ingenious plan to use the corpse as a jet ski and as Hank hurtles forward on the corpse, the narrative follows suite. We follow Hank and the corpse (later named Manny) as they discover new things about Manny's exceptional body and then bound, roll, drag, and fart through the forest trying to find civilisation; the results are spellbinding.

It is hard to know where to start with Swiss Army Man; there is something special and unique about it whilst also being hugely referential with massive pop-culture influences. It seamlessly blends together crude comedy and heartfelt moments that are exceedingly touching. Dano, known for his strength as a troubled individual (Little Miss Sunshine), really shines here. This is, after all, his journey and we instantly captivated by his story. He is the worm and Radcliffe's Manny, with his limitlessly skilled body, is the hook. Together, they drag you into their tale of friendship, fellowship, of life and death. Radcliffe's performance too cannot be understated. This is one of the finest physical comedic performances in years. The strength of the two leads may even force you to shed a tear of sadness, and they are guaranteed to bring on fits of laughter.

Swiss Army Man is gloriously grotesque but disgustingly delightful. Chuckles turn to belly laughs, belly laughs turn to tears. For a film about a farting corpse that wants to understand pooping and masturbation, Swiss Army Man is surprisingly philosophical and thought provoking. Veiled beneath the crude humour is a deep analysis of societal norms and the nature of life and living and, strangely enough, it is almost impossible to imagine a better vehicle for the topic at hand. Directors Dan Kwan, and Daniel Scheinert take films like Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life and, along with their superb script, drags them through the digestion track of cinema and excrete something magical and special. With a powerful and moving acapella soundtrack, often originating as diegetic singing, the film overwhelms the senses in the best way possible. It is hard to imagine anything like Swiss Army Man  existing again and it's difficult to recall anything like it existing before. 

There is something special here. It is stupid but intellectual, crude but beautiful. Whilst some have found the ending a bit jarring, the journey more than justifies it. You have to see it to believe it.