Was Manny real?
A starvation hallucination or a real magical farting corpse?Whatever this is, the reflection that drives you to come to a conclusion could save your life
The following text is a full discussion over the movie, the characters and all the elements related, it contains plot synopsis and a few spoilers, so if you didn’t watched it yet I’d friendly advise you not to read it by now.
And no, this is not a movie about gay necrophilia or a schizophrenic narcotic user farting drama — although it might look like at first.
It’s been two weeks since I’ve watched Swiss Army Man on Netflix and must admit it was one of the greatest movies I’ve seen in my entire life. “What?!” you may ask yourself. Yeah, no joke. I can’t remember any other movie that is so rooted in the subjective reality of its central character. Even the landscape of the story is a clear manifestation of Hank’s mental state in all the stages it have been. It deserves a psychoanalysis, and so the idea of properly thinking about it and taking some time to sit down, reflect and eventually write about it got stuck on my mind.
This film is way beyond the trivial story of a man stranded on an island with a farting magical corpse.
But before we start breaking out Manny, we shall understand Hank.
From suicidal isolation to an internal search in order to eventually crawl back to humanity, the whole story is based in Hank’s existential drama and his own self-acceptance.
All his traumas and retained wishes made his mind overflow, realizing he was getting older and his life was still a black hole so empty it slowly drowned him into a depression that bewildered him nearly leading him to his own induced death.
The story begins with Hank getting ready to take his own life — he is stranded on a desert island trying to hang himself. Soon he sees the corpse and has the impulse of checking it out and certificating if it was really dead, so the rope breaks and Hank approaches, does a heart massage and Manny farts.
“You know, I’d always hoped that right before I died my life would flash before my eyes and I would see wonderful things, but as I was hanging up there I didn’t really see much of anything, but I did see you.”
Hank’s relationship with Manny is worth a study. — The corpse appears as a very unlikely hope of surviving in what appeared to be a wild environment. Right in the beginning of the movie we notice empty packages and a little paper boat with writings all over. We notice “I am so bored” and “I don’t want to die alone” written in it — what guides us through the theory that maybe Manny’s small signs of life could be explained by Hank’s desperate fear of being lonely.
Who was Manny, afterall?
“Was Manny… real?” you may ask yourself.
My personal interpretation is that Manny is really a corpse Hank has found at some point during his hideaway. — I often question myself if Hank have ever left Sarah’s backyard or not (later in the movie, we realize there’s a beach in the end of the trash-filled forest behind Sarah’s backyard — so he never really left the suburb, right?). The three landscapes where the story goes, to my mind, were psychological (including the beach looking like a desert island, the fact of it looking desert was because his isolation could be easily compared to that). Maybe he lived this adventure inside his head in favor of relieving all his loneliness and reflecting over what has gone wrong with his own life, just like an existential void.
During their conversations we realize Manny is clearly Hank’s extension. From all the conversations they have about Hank’s father, the episode with his mother, his sexual dysfunction, his traumas, his values and all that censorship he feels (like when he dresses himself like Sarah and says his dad would get mad at him if he saw him dressed like that or when he censors Manny about what he can say or not). The fact Manny has ‘lost his memory’ and trying to recover, and how Manny makes him rethink all the reasons that were leading Hank to his suicidal impulse on the first place — that what makes me question up to how point is him real.
All Manny’s superpowers were things that Hank knew somehow he couldn’t do because they were too gross to be done in public, an aggression to social modesty and were earlier censored by his father when he was younger — such as public erections and carefree farts.
Hank: “It’s moving!”
Manny: “What’s happening!”
Hank: “Manny, I think your wang is guiding us home. It’s magic.”
Hank: “Maybe that’s just something the brain invents to survive.”
Manny: “Yeah. Like maybe your brain invented me to distract you from the fact that eventually your eyes are gonna stop blinking and your mouth will stop chewing and your blood will stop pumping and then you’re gonna shit yourself. And that’s it.”
Still not sure if Manny is either Hank’s hallucination or a real magical corpse.
What does the farts really mean in the story?
Just like everything else in the movie, the farts do have a deeper meaning.
As you already may have realized, Swiss Army Man is an atypical movie — I understand how most people would take the farting symbolism as nothing but a gross joke, but trust me, there’s something a lot more meaningful hiding in the flatulence of Daniel Radcliffe’s corpse.
The film brings up a deep existential void, aspects that if were exposed respecting modesty parameters would simply kill the entire proposal of the movie. It’s a rational film within a framework of philosophical reasoning, making it any less hilarious (or even less bizarre) would turn it into a boring schizophrenic madness, or just a boring self reflection.
Farting is a metaphor for being free to express yourself and whatever is inside your heart and head however you want. We notice that in many parts.
Manny: “You want to go home so you can have love, but you ran away because nobody loves you.”
Hank: “Shut up! You can’t just say everything that comes into your head, that’s bad talking!”
Hank: “People don’t like other people’s farts.”
Manny: “Is that why you don’t fart in front of me?”
Hank: “I just like to do it alone, or hold it in, that’s what you’re supposed to do.”
Manny: “That’s so sad. 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?”
Hank often tries to describe and explain to Manny how is it like being alive, and it’s directly connected to expressing yourself. But it ends up that Manny starts helping Hank understanding it deeper — and subtly forcing him to reflect over the way he used to live his life and realize what possibly could have gone wrong. Manny is in all times an extension of Hank, more like his puppet friend than another person. You notice it clearly when Manny is able to reveal more about Hank than Hank does himself.
A brief analysis of quotes — and the signals Hank has given us.
Hank’s problem with his dad is explicit at various times throughout the story.
Hank: “How do you expect anyone to want to talk to you if you sound retarded? I sound like my dad.”
Manny: “You want to go home so you can have love, but you ran away because nobody loves you.”
Hank: “Shut up! You can’t just say everything that comes into your head, that’s bad talking!
Sarah is Hank’s manic pixie girl. As he said once when she asked him why did he had a picture of her on his phone if she didn’t even know who he was — “You seemed so happy, and I wasn’t” Hank have seen in her a possibility of having a happy life. A full life. Living instead of simply ‘surviving’.
In fact, by all the traumas he had and by all the things he have said to Manny during the plot we could say Hank after all just were looking for something everyone else in the world looks for — being loved.
Hank: “When there’s seven billion people on the planet you might be lucky enough to bump into the one person you want to spend the rest of your life with.”
Hank: Every day, you ride the bus and count the minutes, hoping you’ll see her again. She smiles, and you feel a strange tingle up the back of your neck. Something carnal inside of you causes your body to break out in sweats. You feel like the luckiest man in the world. She sits alone, just like every other day, and looks out the window lost in her thoughts. You know that look. She’s just as alone as you are. But she doesn’t have to be. You could talk to her. Tell her you’d love to sit next to her today and every other day, because life is short, and no one deserves to ride the bus alone
But, being 100% honest, I don’t think Hank has ever been in love with Sarah. When Manny’s body is being taken, and the journalists come to interview him she asks him why is her picture on his wallpaper and he says “You seemed so happy, and I wasn’t” — Hank was searching for love, but it wasn’t Sarah’s love, neither Manny’s fictional gay love, it could be his dad’s love.
Did you noticed that when Hank’s sorta reunited with his dad (if that can be affirmed somehow) is when he’s able to actually say goodbye to Manny?
When Hank’s dad comes out of the car and is asked for identifying the body he clearly exposes his sadness and desperate over the hypothesis of having lost his child. Seeing that, Hank gains courage to be his true self and end up getting the love he have been searching for the entire time.
Manny: “But maybe everyone’s a little bit ugly. Yeah, maybe we’re all just ugly, dying sacks of shit and maybe all it’ll take is one person to just be okay with that.”
When Hank tells his dad that his mom would be happy that somebody loves him he isn’t referring to anyone’s love besides his own dad’s love. Hank ran away and almost killed himself because he was convinced that nobody loved him, — incluiding his own dad — but seeing it all now, it might have changed.
After that we have the finale. And Manny has his bizarre triumphal exit — farting back to Hogwarts.