Swiss Army Man (2016) is an absurd and questionable tragicomedy, the first major work of Daniel Scheinert and fairly well-known comedy director Dan Kwan. The creative role of Scheinert is quite far from the comedian, according to the scriptwriter and director himself. He is more predisposed to creating fantasy worlds. To understand the film, it is important to appreciate the history of the origin of the idea.
Like all the most interesting plots, the plot of this film grew out of rubbish, simply from the jokes of two director friends flying to shoot another low-budget short film. Having considered in detail their idea, what they had thought of on a whim, Kwan and Scheinert decided that the short film format they were used to revealing the plot and substantiating all the psychological subtleties would simply not be enough. Therefore, they decided to paint a truly tragic story (no matter how absurd it may sound) of a lonely, socially unadapted young man on a desert island and his corpse friend, whose main quality is the release of a huge amount of gases. Let’s take a closer look at the plot of the film.
Movie plot Swiss Army Man
The plot of the film goes far beyond the usual cinematic, and, apart from the “ideological guide” to it, it can seem delusional and even repulsive. Therefore, the viewer initially needs to tune in to the fact that everything that happens on the screen is one big metaphor for the internal formation of a person.
A young man named Hank finds himself isolated on a desert island and, unlike all the heroes of books and films known to us in a similar situation, decides not to resist the world and survive, but, having fallen into extreme despair, hang himself. Already on the verge of dying, Hank discovers the corpse of a young man about his own age (the corpse, by the way, is played by Daniel Radcliffe, another example of the departure from the usual role in this film). Delighted by the man and immediately convinced that he had been dead for a long time, Hank was already falling into even greater despair, but he suddenly discovers that the corpse has the ability to produce a huge amount of gases and, on this, so to speak, traction, using the dead body as a jetski, moves to the other side. There he discovers many more “talents” in the corpse. For example, he can be a source of fresh water, as it gushing from his mouth like a fountain, can be used as a compass (a penis that always points north). At some point, the corpse, which turns out to have a name, Mani, comes into contact with Hank, communicates with him, they become friends in a sense.
Hank heads home with Manny’s help, while rehearsing a proposed date with Sarah, a married woman he’s in love with but has been unable to approach due to his social ineptitude and pathological insecurities. However, the hero, who has charted his path, decides to go to her. On the way, a bear attacks friends. Hank, completely against his nature, even fights him and wins, escaping with a heavy wound. Mani drags a friend to Sarah’s house, she calls the police and an ambulance. However, the protagonist decides not to stay next to the woman he loves, but to run away with a corpse friend so that he is not buried.
Hank is taken for a madman, and Manny, in front of many witnesses, goes on an open voyage to the sea, on the draft of his own intestinal gases. The film ends on this absurd note.
What could be the tragic symbolism in this seemingly absurd comedy? The fact is that according to Jung’s theory of archetypes living in the human mind, what happens in this film is a classic journey into the unconscious of a person, the same “hero’s journey” that we see in every work of art, but in a concentrated form. First, let’s figure out who is who in this work. The main character, Hank. We are given such characteristics as inability to live, infantilism, lack of adaptation, but also creative power, imagination.
Hank is a classic representation of an inner child who has not yet joined society (therefore, a desert island, alienation, loneliness), but an integral and in some way the most important principle of the human psyche. Hank is a metaphor for the “foundation of the soul”, the psyche before the intrusion of the outside world into it. However, Hank’s “inner child” here is a crippled, sickly inner child, devoid of the feminine principle, anima, or soul (what Sarah represents). Therefore, in order to become whole again, he needs to go through the path of a hero and find his Anima, soul, female principle. She adapts him to the world and initiates him into adulthood. The “inner child” Hank himself is unable to find the “anima” Sarah. Yes, he is a creative motivating force, but he is weak against the realities of the world. Therefore, such a principle of the human unconscious as the Shadow comes to his rescue, that is, something that is not customary to manifest while living in society. The darkest, otherworldly and animal that is in the human psyche.
Obviously, it’s Mani here. In a funny comedy format, his opposition to cultural values is presented, his superpowers are the emission of gases, vomiting fresh water and a penis that indicates the direction. However, it is precisely this primal and anti-social force that can lead Hank’s “inner child” to gaining a soul, to maturation and initiation. According to the laws of the genre, having fulfilled his role, the Shadow goes into the unconscious, which is what happens in the film – Mani swims away. But the most interesting thing is not in this, because it is just a classic of the genre. Hank’s refusal to leave Mani and go to Sarah is interesting. This is a psychological climax, showing that the meaning of the film “Swiss Army Man” is the formation of a soul that does not want initiation into adulthood. This is literally a metaphor for the soul of a generation that rebelled against growing up.
The tragicomedy from the cinema here is the tragicomedy of the inner life of modern young people, which cannot but be interesting.
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