One of the most highly-anticipated movies at Sundance, “Swiss Army Man,” starring Paul Dano as a suicidal romantic wandering in the wild with a farting corpse played by Daniel Radcliffe, premiered on Friday to delight, confusion and ultimately cheering from a packed audience at the Sundance Film Festival.
But first there was confusion and not a small number of walkouts, including from some potential buyers.
“Swiss Army Man” is not for everyone. But without a doubt, the movie offered up a couple of daring new voices in independent film. “The Daniels,” as co-directors Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan are known, displayed a burst of innovative ideas along with a wonderfully wacky view of the world and, hey, isn’t that what Sundance is about?
One person at the premiere tweeted: “Swiss Army Man, completely nuts, hilarious, unique and bizarre.” That about summed it up.
Paul Dano stars as Hank, whom we first meet on a deserted island where he is about to hang himself. But he stops after he spots a corpse (Daniel Radcliffe), who — prepare to read the next phrase twice — hydroplanes across the water by farting.
And then Dano rides the corpse of Radcliffe as if it were a jet-ski.
Manny (Radcliffe) comes back to life but only sort of, and he has special powers like using his mouth as a spigot. The two wander through a magnificent wilderness of majestic trees, mountains and various trash left behind by hikers and act out a weird, meditative love affair set in cobbled-together bits of trash and nature. It sounds weird and it is, but at a certain point you begin to accept the real emotion growing between the two men, and their desperate grasp for a reason to be alive.
There was much chatter ahead of Sundance about “The Daniels,” two successful music video directors who took their debut feature project to the Sundance Lab.
“Originally it was a fart joke,” admitted Scheinert at the Q&A following the screening. But he then decided that it was an opportunity to “explore big ideas and mortality.”
Kwan described the film as “a suicidal man has to convince a corpse that life is worth living.”
Dano said he was familiar with the directors’ work. He wrote his friend Radcliffe “and said these guys are crazy geniuses,” the latter recalled at the screening.
“On page two, once he was riding the farting body,” Dano said, “I was in.”
Scheinert added: “This film is an impossibility. It should not exist.”
Doubtless a lot of viewers would agree, especially those who gave up before the final credits and walked out.