Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Swiss Army Man: NZIFF Film Review

Swiss Army Man: Film Review

Cast: Paul Dano, Daniel Radcliffe, Mary Elizabeth Winstead
Director: Daniel Kwan, Daniel Scheinert

"People don't like other people's farts".

It's this line which will sum up the polarising but utterly beautiful Swiss Army Man, the story of Paul Dano's Hank, a man who's stranded on an island with no hope. Setting up a noose to relieve him of his own life, Hank's life changes when he spots another person washed up on the beach.

This is Manny (Harry Potter's Daniel Radcliffe) - but the problem is Manny is a corpse.

Well, a farting corpse - that Hank saddles up and rides off the island like a jetski. But the pair end up lost in the woods and Hank struggles to freedom, while reflecting on his life.

Mixing the profound and the puerile, Swiss Army Man is like nothing else at the movies at the moment. (And is potentially why people walked out at screenings at Sundance).

A meditation on life and love that's occasionally punctuated by flatulence at the start, Swiss Army Man is actually an incredibly moving piece that may or may not be told by an unreliable narrator. Whether it is a descent into madness and sanity or a realistic story remains deeply in question once the film's ended, but what's clear is that the directors have crafted a flick that's as visually engaging and crammed with original visual ideas as anything from Michel Gondry.

Surreal in parts, and laugh out loud humorous, with an ethereal soundtrack that builds on loops and riffs on meditations of love, as well as human connections, both Dano and Radcliffe are incredible in a kind of Pinteresque Godot type survival story that crosses Castaway and Wilson.

It could do to lose some of the more bottom obsessed moments, but equally some of the earlier scenes with the farting bizarrely add to a level of humour that transcends the childish. And there's a profundity throughout that's ultimately quite moving.

Mixing spirituality, existentialism and life, the fresh and utterly original Swiss Army Man is a hallucinatory and melancholy trip that's worth taking. It's an affecting and tragic film that speaks to loneliness and reeks of the sincerity of co-dependancy of the human condition.

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