‘Fraternal funerary farts’ is probably the best way to describe Swiss Army Man on the surface, but it couldn’t be further from what Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert are able to accomplish in their slim and beautiful film. Described by Radcliffe as his favorite movie he ever made, this movie with its paltry $3M budget was an incredibly heartfelt and gorgeous magical realist story about friendship, identity, and existentialism.
Kwan and Scheinert’s script explores how complicated our platonic and romantic relationships are and can become, and the manner through which the fantastic is used to examine the various ways that interpersonal relationships are complicated. Friendships that we build as part of the experience of living require a lot of navigation, and as we age, we build walls around ourselves to protect us and to protect others. When we were children, things were so much easier, and as we age and build an identity and families and marriages and other relationships, everything gets so much more complicated – usually at the expense of our own happiness. This film teases apart what this all looks like with the open-eyed wonder of a completely new type of story with only two beautifully performed characters. It almost seems like the type of make believe that we played as children – and the music!
The result is a bizarre, touching, and original story that borrows from many types of tropes but manages to create something entirely new. From the beginning of the film, I thought that it was going to open the Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge trope at the end (and not really a spoiler), but its ending was so much more satisfying because it didn’t rely on a gimmick to resolve many of the elements. Instead, the entirety of the film is a hyperreal dream that entirely uses practical effects to tell a great story. Enjoyable, beautiful, simple, and exploratory, this is easily one of the best new films I’ve seen in a while. In a world awash with remakes and superhero flicks, Swiss Army Man was truly a wonderful surprise.
People, be yourself. Being alive sucks sometimes, but being real in what little time we have is important.