Swiss Army Man is about Hank, whom we get introduced to as a suicidal man stranded on an island, and who finds a corpse. Thanks to its handy physical functions, it becomes a tool to get him home. He names it Manny and on the journey it seems to slowly get back to life the more Hank talks to it and makes it his confidant and friend.
There’s lots of music, simple dreamy humming folky singsongs against the loneliness in the woods, nostalgic memories of pop culture, including a version of ‘Cotton Eye Joe‘ or the Jurassic Park theme song. Mostly it’s soft breathy singing, a cappella choir style, heavy on the reverbs, sometimes accompanied by a simple guitar or droney ambient sounds – which reminds me: Might 2016 be the year in which we have finally let the “sad bearded white male singer/songwriter” behind us? In this movie the archetype of the bearded sad rejected white man seems to reach another peak – and overcome it. If you can’t see it coming yet, here’s a trigger warning: My take on this film is a feminist one. Swiss Army Man is a long bromantic fart joke going serious and we get to witness that not even death can stop bros from bonding over a woman’s rejection. The wonderful central moment of this bromance and movie is the bus scene in the middle, which does not only not shy from drag and homoerotic undertones but which also takes it seriously. It’s no rough joke but fragile and beautiful.
The bearded folksinger and this movie also share the glorification of nature as authentic and honest in contrast to a harsh (urban) civilization where people can’t be themselves, where they have to play-act and: even hide their farts from each other – sorry, but this movie really is a bit fartcentric, but since ))<>(( we know that even pooping can work in a lighthearted romance, so don’t let this turn you off.
The closer Hank and Manny get back to civilization, the creepier the obsession with the woman of Hank’s dreams starts to look. It culminates a few steps from the wilderness, in the middle of her garden, the civilized green, in the confrontation with her daughter. In the wilderness Manny’s penis was the “natural” instinctive guide that showed them the direction back to civilization whenever Manny looked at a picture of that woman on Hank’s phone. When they end up in her garden and the little girl finds them, Manny’s erection is plain wrong, and what seemed to be natural attraction, what from afar looked like romance in that moment starts to look a lot more like simple creepy stalking. Especially while first you might have thought the picture on his phone is his girlfriend, after a while you get to realize that he has taken it secretly.
I still can’t say if I ‘like’ Swiss Army Man but it’s definitely worth watching and form your own opinion on it. It’s a fresh idea and you will hardly get another chance to see a great Daniel Radcliffe’s corpse being used as a jet-ski anytime soon. It’s well-executed and beautifully filmed, and I still can’t get the final song out of my head. Have I mentioned that the soundtrack is done by two bearded singer/songwriter guys of Manchester Orchestra).