By Matt McGregor
Swiss Army Man speaks a language only understood by those scarred by being called “weird” as a child, only to find later in life that the designation is not a curse but a gift which frees one from the social constraints of having to be normal.
The small amount of Buddhist in me would say we are all weird, however, this deeply personal movie tests that theory. It’s a socially awkward teenager of a film, dealing with the uncomfortable subject matter such as death, masturbation, existential isolation, and farting.
The cinematic experience itself cannot be explained through traditional means. It evokes motifs of early American literature, such as the retreat of two men into the forest to explore themselves and the nature of society in contrast with the wild self. Transcendentalism befriends magic realism.
The plot isn’t as significant as its poetry, which itself is a parody of our bodies as Swiss Army tools for pleasure and function, until they decompose, leaving us to ask, are we our bodies? Are we love? Or are we a meaningless storage unit of thoughts, memories, and fear? Manny asks Hank, “If my best friend hides his farts from me then what else is he hiding from me, and why does that make me feel so alone?”
Manny himself is a tabula rasa-corpse with an awakened human mind, formatting and collecting data as the movie progresses, confronting the Derrida-esque concept of language, the biblical plague of thinking, love, and the eventual flatulent death from which Manny was born and where we all end.
The birth and overpopulation of thought construct a cloud of anxiety for Manny, allowing him to become the contemporary, anxious human. He eats the forbidden fruit of reflection: “Oh God, I’m disgusting. My body is disgusting.” He joins the human race in its flight from its own animalistic, corporeal form, while guiding Hank with a GPS-erection in the circular journey of loss, exploring the time we waste being afraid while on this planet, and interrogating the neurosis that prevents us from being something more than what Hank calls a “bag of shit.”
Swiss Army Man digs deeper than entertainment. It’s an interpretive dance, with a haunting score, wooing the audience to consider its basest functions, our most embarrassing fears just as sacred and intertwined with love as our own breaking hearts.
Swiss Army Man stars Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe and is currently showing at Carolina Cinemas.