Swiss Army Man made headlines when audiences walked out – but it’s one of the stars of Sundance 2016…
Fart jokes, boner jokes, vomit jokes, Oh My!
From the opening frame of Swiss Army Man to the closing credits, Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert have crafted a film unlike anything you’ve ever seen.
Exactly how does a musical about a suicidal man and a corpse with uncontrollable/magic gas become one of 2016 Sundance’s best? With a complete dedication to the absurd from its stunningly talented directors and even more impressive performances from its two leading men.
The film opens with Paul Dano (Little Miss Sunshine, Love & Mercy) preparing to hang himself on a deserted island. As he prepares to end his life he notices a dead body wash on the shore. This body belongs to Daniel Radcliffe in his most challenging, insane role of his young career. As Hank (Dano) approaches the body and begs for him to be alive, Manny (Radcliffe) let’s out the first of many releases, a loud, drawn out fart.
Yes, it is as ridiculous as it sounds. Never before, to my knowledge, has a buddy comedy been built on the foundation of flatulence. During the next five minutes of their introduction the farts become absurd; drawn out for several seconds and to the point where they violently shake Radcliffe’s corpse. You can’t help but laugh, but also realize there is still 90 more minutes of this film and wonder where the hell is this going to go?
That is when something incredible happens. Hank gets an idea. He pushes Manny’s corpse into the ocean, pulls Manny’s pants down under his buttocks then straddles him like a horse. Then suddenly Manny farts at a ridiculous strength that propels them forward like a jet-ski thrusting them towards freedom.
What may shock people is that this probably doesn’t rank in the top five most ridiculous things that happen in this film.
Kwan and Scheinert worked with the Sundance Labs to craft this script which was based on the ridiculous idea of building a self-discovery buddy comedy around farts. The film matches the absurdity of the gross outs with genuine heart. The film delivers a powerful message about friendship, identity and the importance of masturbation.
As previously mentioned, there has never been a film like this.
The directors make their feature debut with Swiss Army Man after primarily making music videos. The sharp visuals, fast pacing and striking aesthetics from their videos riddle this film making it a visual treat. The film is basically a musical that delivers a mixture of hilarity and credibility along the way.
Dano and Radcliffe are fascinating in these roles. This film is basically a 95 minute fart joke. But these are two of the best young actors working today and they treat this film as if it was their shot to win an Oscar. The two have a chemistry that is as good as you can ever find, which is the paramount reason why this film works. The film makes you emotionally connect with a dead person who can’t stop farting, and a depressed man who refuses to masturbate because it makes him think of his Mother.
There is a lot going on here.
This film is definitely not for everybody. That is a guarantee. But Swiss Army Man is the reason the Sundance Film Festival exists. There has never been anything like it. Kwan and Scheinert appear to have made this film to see if they could get away with it. What resulted was an over pouring of support to get this film made, and to make something great.
Once you understand the fact that this film is a complete work of absurd fiction you can understand the brilliance of it. The commitment to the script, the story, the relationship, and yes, the farts. It is hard to remember a cinematic experience where you are constantly riding a roller coaster of asking yourself “What the Hell?!” to wondering if you might be about to cry.
Swiss Army Man might not win any Oscars next year. It might be a film that many people will walk out of. But it is definitely a film that is going to find a devout fan base. A fan base that is going to make this film live on for a very long time.
This divisive film is a piece of performance art. It is an achievement in every way. And that is a pretty damn impressive thing to say about a movie based around farts.