Music and a Movie: Swiss Army Man

Jul 4, 2016 by Pedro Lopez DeVictoria on The Nickelodeon Blog

The mainstreaming of true weirdness has always been a touch-and-go endeavor. Load something with quirk, dress it in challenges to the form, cast Crispin Glover–do whatever you want to do to place it on the fringe, but don’t expect it to catch on. At the very least, not with the merit of those things alone. See, the Damn Yankees knew it: You gotta have heart. A film with a coherent story, message, or experience at its core will transcend any accusation of┬ábeing simply perverse.

Swiss Army Man does this–without lack of indie-accouterment. You get a gorgeous a capella score that sounds plucked from a Band of Horses vocal track, a Michel Gondr-ian hand-made/charmingly ramshackle aesthetic, and Ramona Flowers. Couple that with Paul Dano’s crazed castaway and Daniel Radcliffe’s flatulent corpse, and you have more quirky than a cow has jerky. Of course, this film is still beautiful in extremely conventional ways, and the weird is more in its premise than its execution. If the high walk-out rate at Sundance was any indication of the leap of faith this film asks the audience to take, Swiss Army Man is truly an in-or-out ordeal. But through the rambling and strangely inverted island romance, you get a story about the devil of idling by. You learn that your cute, sensitive soul will remain undiscovered and ignored if you wait your whole life for someone to peek in. Dano’s Hank is haunted by this passivity, and it isn’t until he is led to his paramour, near literally, by the serendipitous arrival of a bloated all-purpose tool, that he can overcome his chronic procrastination.

This is an epidemic that has ravaged communities of weird ones for centuries. Obsessed with our personal narrative of an aberrant spirit affronted by a monochromatic society of sheep, we forget that our strangeness isn’t enough. We need teeth. Action is paramount, and remaining in the shadows isn’t just self-negating, but the chief trait of the mass you so proudly distinguish yourself from.

And so, the song I found paired well with this film was “Lousy Connection” by Ezra Furman. While there is an obvious parallel, in the Swiss Army Man’s protagonist and his quest for cellphone signal throughout the film, the treatment of the fringe trope in the lyrics of this jam are self-aware and yet perfectly typical. Also, brrraassss.