This is a movie that struck my curiosity more than any other to come out of this year’s Sundance Film Festival. If you’ve read any headlines about it, then you probably didn’t even read the title at the top. You probably read something about the “Daniel Radcliffe Farting Corpse Movie”. That sort of headline is how I initially came across Swiss Army Man, and I’ve been dying to see it ever since.
This is the feature length directorial debut for Daniel Kwan and Daniel Schienert, who credit themselves as one, simply going by Daniels. Prior to this motion picture, they created a number of off-the-wall short films and music videos, including one for the hit song Turn Down For What?. If you’ve ever seen that music video, then you know just how strange the minds of these two are. And yes, this movie is as strange as that video.
The plot for this movie is fairly simple on the surface. A man is trapped on an island, and is about to commit suicide, when a corpse suddenly washes up on the shore. This corpse just might have special powers, and it just might help our man of sorrows get home.
Our two leads are Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe, who both clock in career highlights. The screenplay allows for the best qualities of Paul Dano to come out-his sympathy, his on the nose comedic timing, and his unique brand of charisma. Radcliffe, on the other hand, is left to experiment throughout the entire runtime as a literal corpse. If playing dead is an art, then the former Harry Potter star mastered it in this movie. From his lack of movement, to allowing Dano’s character to man handle him like a rag doll, it’s truly amazing just how believing Radcliffe is able to be.
As good as the leads are, though, they aren’t what makes this movie special. What makes this movie special is it’s pure originality. How often can we say that a truly original movie has come out? In the age of sequels and reboots-which are certainly good and have their place in cinema-it is undeniably refreshing to watch a movie that’s unlike anything else I’ve ever seen before. As I try to think of comparisons, there isn’t one single movie that is similar in every element to Swiss Army Man. When I say that in the 100+ years of cinema history, there’s never been anything like this, I mean it-and that’s something to be treasured.
Both the screenplay and the direction are able to impressively balance genuine depth with juvenile humor. Yes, Daniel Radcliffe’s corpse farts in this movie-a lot. However, his farts mean something, as strange as that sounds. The Daniels use farts-and other socially inappropriate parts of life-to tap into what it means to be human, and have come out with one of the most meditative films in recent memory. The fact that this movie had me rolling laughing while also truly moving me is remarkable. It would have been one thing if the film’s originality had been a solid effort, but overall a swing and miss-this movie’s originality pays off in spades! Again, it’s something to be treasured.
Swiss Army Man is in limited release, and thus may not be in a theatre near you. I myself had to drive one hour to get to the closest theater showing it. Even so, be on the look out for this crazy piece of art. If you don’t get to see it in theaters, then rent it when it comes out on digital and home video. I will say you’ll either love it, like I did, or you’ll hate it like some others have. However, I think you’ll agree when I say that I say that there isn’t another movie in existence like it. That fact alone makes this film deserving on your time.
Swiss Army Man was, quite simply, beautiful.