SWISS ARMY MAN. Daniel Radcliffe and Paul Dano in the peculiar and bold film by The Daniels

Although it seems daring to assess Swiss Army Man in intellectual terms, one should not unequivocally reject them.


7 December 2023

Deserted Island. On it, Hank (Paul Dano), having lost hope of any rescue, decides to commit suicide. The rope is ready and around his neck, all that remains is to jump off the bucket. Suddenly, a seemingly lifeless body (brilliantly played by Daniel Radcliffe) is washed ashore. Seemingly lifeless, because it suddenly starts loudly farting. This absurd scene rapidly escalates into an even greater grotesque when Hank mounts the encountered corpse (later named Manny) and floats away on him into the vastness of the Pacific Ocean.

To those who are offended by such naturalistic descriptions, I apologize, but there is no other way to tell the story of Swiss Army Man. The creators, presenting themselves as “The Daniels,” are keen on confronting the audience with what doesn’t fit into the topics for discussion during a family dinner. Just as Jim Hosking in The Greasy Strangler plays with what is disgusting, strange, and improbable. Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert’s film defies genre categorization, being a hybrid of survival cinema, buddy movie, comedy, or fantasy, moving between these concepts with great freedom. The whole thing is saturated with scatological jokes, yet their repetition (due to a fairly limited repertoire of gags) eventually becomes somewhat tedious and annoying. Looking at some scenes in the film, one may wonder who had the courage to invest money in such a project. Nevertheless, Swiss Army Man proves that audacity sometimes pays off.

At the same time, it is a very intimate work, requiring a significant distance from the acting duo to themselves, their own bodies, or their sexuality. The film presents a liberating experience based on the knowledge and acceptance of one’s own body. Although it seems daring to assess Swiss Army Man in intellectual terms (after all, it is a story about a corpse suffering from gastric problems, and its member serves as a compass for the heroes), one should not unequivocally reject them. The creators look at the human body and how it has been stigmatized and restricted by the tight corset of American morality with a great deal of distance. At some point, the body carried by the protagonist begins to speak. Manny, suffering from depression, questions the rules of the world in which Hank has to live with childlike curiosity. The accelerated process of maturation that the hero, plucked from the sea, undergoes, initially full of naive optimism, ends for him in bitter disappointment and loss of faith in friendship.

The eccentricity of the entire film is emphasized by the unusual musical layer, meticulously created set design, and interesting cinematography. Many critics highlighted in their reviews the associations of Swiss Army Man with Michel Gondry’s style. This may be explained by the fact that Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, like the director of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, have been involved in the past in creating music videos, which are a good summary of the motifs used in their feature film debut.

The film’s ending, which avoids rationalizing the events presented, may escape logical explanation, but it fits into the crazy, uncompromising convention of the whole story. And that’s perhaps the best thing about Swiss Army Man. The directors didn’t allow the veiling of their radical idea, which in its creative, bold form will undoubtedly remain one of the biggest cinematic curiosities of recent years. Perhaps one day the work of “The Daniels” will become a cult classic, like Quentin Dupieux’s Rubber. As for the audience, there is nothing left but to reward the creators’ courage with their own and go see this film.



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