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Film / Swiss Army Man

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"The first fart makes you laugh, and the last fart makes you cry."
DANIELS' one-sentence pitch to Paul Dano

Swiss Army Man is a 2016 surreal comedy-drama film starring Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe. It was written and directed by the filmmaking duo of Daniel Kwan and Daniel Schienert (colloquially known as DANIELS).

Stranded on an island and bored out of his mind, Hank (Dano) prepares to hang himself until he sees the body of a young man (Radcliffe) wash up on the shore. Not only is the man not quite as dead as he seems, but he appears to have unusual abilities, such as jet-propelling farts, an erection that can be used as a compass and many, many others. Hank names the corpse Manny, and with his help, Hank may have found not only his key to survival, but also his first true friend.

Swiss Army Tropes:

  • An Aesop: Everyone is a little unusual, and the only way we can ever be happy with ourselves is to accept our own quirks.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Manny loses his trust in Hank because Hank lied to him about Sarah. And also he hides his farts from Manny.
  • Ass Shove: When Hank can't stand Manny's farting anymore, he employs a cork.
  • Author Appeal: Inverted. According to Paul Dano, Dan Kwan hates fart jokes, a cappella and the song "Cotton Eye Joe." The movie was a personal challenge to see if he and his partner Daniel Schienert could make a movie they loved out of all of the things Kwan disliked.
  • Artistic License – Biology: A likely intentional example, but despite being a corpse, Manny does not decompose at all over the course of what looks like several days (he would likely be bloated from being in water as well). This leads credence to the magic side of the Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane.
  • Award-Bait Song: "A Better Way."
  • Beard of Sorrow: Hank has grown one at the start of the story, but he manages to shave it off later on (using Manny, of course).
  • Bears Are Bad News: Hank gets attacked by one after falling from a tree.
  • The Big Damn Kiss: Manny and Hank's first kiss ticks every box in this tropes description.
  • Black Comedy: The plot involves a corpse who constantly farts and whose erections can be used as a compass.
  • Blatant Lies: When Manny starts having reasonable doubts about Hank's explanations, and describes his sense of isolation, Hank says that Manny is probably the first person to ever feel this way.
  • Boom, Headshot!: Manny can spit kernels with deadly force, blasting the head off of a squirrel.
  • Bungled Suicide: Hank's in the middle of trying to hang himself while on a deserted island at the start of the film, but the rope winds up breaking.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Removing Manny's cork to once again save the two from drowning.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Frequently happens as Hank tries to explain life and the workings of society to Manny.
  • Cringe Comedy: Manny promises to think of Hank's mom when he masturbates as a way to reassure Hank over his insecurities - see That Came Out Wrong.
  • Driven to Suicide: Hank starts off the movie trying to hang himself until he sees Manny's body washed up on the shore.
    • The police at the end of the movie theorize Manny was a bridge jumper.
  • Farts on Fire: Hank utilizes Manny to do this in order to start a campfire late into the movie.
  • Gainax Ending: Everyone who followed Hank to the beach sees Manny jet out to sea. Sarah says "what the fuck" to herself. And then the movie just stops.
  • Good-Times Montage: Hank discovering all of Manny's Swiss Army Man skills, set to the song "Montage" with lyrics that describe the things happening in the montage.
  • Happily Failed Suicide: The movie starts off with Hank trying to hang himself after getting stranded - thankfully, the rope gives way when he spots Manny.
  • Happily Married: Hank's longing for Sarah was pointless in the end, as it turns out she has a husband and a daughter.
  • I Am a Monster: Manny dies again when he sees how frightened Sarah and her daughter are by him.
  • Innocently Insensitive: One of the first things Manny learns about is trash, and he innocently calls Hank trash because Hank is also in the middle of nowhere and nobody has any use for him.
  • Leitmotif: The tune Hank hums as he's about to hang himself at the beginning makes up most of the score.
  • Loving a Shadow: It turns out that Sarah has a husband and daughter at home, in direct contradiction to Hank's vision of her as another lonely person riding the bus.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: The film contains possibly the world's most haunting rendition of "Cotton Eye Joe".
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Is Manny really coming back to life? Or are all his interactions with Hank just Hank's lonely and famished delusions? In the end, multiple people witness Manny farting away into the ocean at jet ski speeds.
  • Obfuscating Insanity: The film is a black comedy laced with toilet humour but has multiple layers worthy of analysis and symbolism.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: Really different.
  • The Power of Friendship: The stronger Hank's bond with Manny is, the more Swiss Army Man abilities Manny has. This finally gives Manny the power to move again.
  • The Power of Love: Love causes Manny's erection to point Hank toward civilization.
  • Psychic Link: Manny has one with Hank, and when Manny starts having negative thoughts, they hurt Hank.
  • Psychoactive Powers: Manny's powers grow as his bond with Hank does, but when he learns their relationship is based on a lie and that Sarah has a husband, he loses his abilities at a crucial moment.
  • Raging Stiffie: Manny's are used as a compass.
  • Resurrected for a Job: Hank believes Manny is slowly being resurrected to save his life.
  • The Reveal: Hank never knew Sarah either and was just a stalker. Although this is clear to the audience long before the Internal Reveal.
    • It also seems that the beach he washed up on at the start was always within easy walking distance of Sarah's house, although it's also entirely possible that the apparent geography/timing of the last scene is not meant to be taken literally.
  • Robinsonade: Hank starts off stranded on a small desert island before Manny's corpse washes up and he is able to use him jet ski to escape the island, however even after that they still have to trek through miles of wilderness to reach civilisation.
  • Shout-Out: Hank and Manny hum the theme music to Jurassic Park. Hank later does a shadow puppet show of the movie for Manny, along with other films like ET The Extraterrestrial.
  • Shower Scene: Hank showering in the water Manny vomits up.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Hank is this toward Sarah, as he keeps pictures of her on his phone without her knowing until the end of the movie.
  • That Came Out Wrong: Hank relates to Manny how his mother was the first person to tell him that masturbation was okay when he was a kid, and that when she died, he had a difficult time doing it because it would remind him of her and he'd be too sad. To Manny, this means he can't masturbate because every time he does, he thinks of his mother.
  • Title Drop: Subverted - the title is never said, but Manny is twice referred to as a "Multi-purpose Tool Guy."
  • Toilet Humour: Manny's and Hank's farting has major plot significance.
  • Was It All a Lie?: Manny questions every aspect of his friendship with Hank when he learns that everything he knew about Sarah wasn't real. And that Hank doesn't fart when Manny is around.
  • What Is This Feeling?: Manny needs emotions explained to him, like joy and fear.
  • What Is This Thing You Call "Love"?: One of the many questions asked by Manny.
  • You Need to Get Laid: Hank is a sexually frustrated man who can't express himself out of fear of judgement. He has feelings for a woman called Sarah but never gathered the courage to talk to her, so he instead resorted to stalking her.

"What the fuck?"