This surrealist masterpiece comes to Blu-ray and DVD piled high with plaudits, packed to the rafters with invention and containing a performance from Daniel Radcliffe which defies description. Worthy of Oscars yet overlooked for being imaginatively unconventional and boldly original, Swiss Army Man is not easily pinned down and no easy watch.
Mixed in with the corpses, flatulence, random erections and bizarre cross dressing is a heartfelt buddy comedy you are going to remember. Swiss Army Man finds Paul Dano rediscovering his lust for life when an inanimate Radcliffe washes on the beach. It’s a masterly portrayal which educates, invigorates and emotionally reanimates Dano’s Hank. Not only because of the multipurpose acts Hank finds Manny capable of, but because Radcliffe is able to instil real emotion and pathos with barely a facial twitch. Both brave, bold and selfless in his depiction Radcliffe proves more than able to hold his own, whether bent double with his dignity on display or sporting erectile GPS.
Beyond the showstoppers which are genuinely funny, what makes Swiss Army Man unique is its take on social constraints. As scattered within the random dialogue scenes are moments of subtlety which examine everything from mortality to masturbation and beyond. However there is an innocence about the film which revels in that lack of genre confinement, meaning things can go south consistently without affecting tone. Role playing can be and proves to be cathartic, while make believe might be the hallucinations of a man with borderline malnutrition, but this you learn is the point. If anything Swiss Army Man is itself there to re-educate, surprise and entertain, focused on questioning our pre-occupations with conformity in the modern age. Where social profiling, internet oversaturation and lack of mystery threatens original thought.
Beyond the puerile focus on bodily functions and other undignified acts, co-writer-directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert have crafted something that demands your attention. Because the initial feeling that Swiss Army Man suffers from pacing issues and tonal imbalance soon disappears, as Scheinert and Kwan come at genre staples from another direction. This is a buddy movie, this is a coming of age tale and rites of passage flick all rolled into one. There is death and rebirth, innocence and adolescence, self-discovery and social commentary plus an ending worthy of academic study.
There will be those who try to put this in a box, slap a label on it and call it by another name, but the truth is Dano and Radcliffe have managed to get something unique up on screen. If this felt like a sharp slap to the face when it finished then they did their job right. If not well you can’t win them all. For everyone else I’ll just say that Swiss Army Man is important and one day you might find this on a film studies curriculum.