As intriguing movie concepts go “Daniel Radcliffe is a farting corpse” is certainly one of the most eyebrow raising of the past few years. This film has been doing the rounds at festivals for over a year and has raised a stir due it’s weird premise. Frankly if the idea of Paul Dano riding Daniel Radcliffe’s gaseous corpse across the ocean like he’s some form of demented Whale Rider won’t get you to watch a movie then it’s difficult to think of anything that will.
Hank (Paul Dano) is a suicidal man marooned alone on a desert island. A corpse (Daniel Radcliffe) washes up on the shore and despite its shabby condition and seemingly unending flatulence it shows itself to be of many uses. Hank rides him around the water on a jet ski and uses the body’s erections as a compass. The corpse begins to speak and an odd relationship starts to develop between the pair.
The strength of Swiss Army Man is in the conviction of lead actors Dano and Radcliffe, who fully commit to the sheer oddness of the film’s premise. The bizarre quality will alienate some but for me the continual peculiarities elevated the experience. So much of cinema follows a familiar rulebook, and structure, which is important in moviemaking, however amid the mainstream cinematic traits and conventions, it’s nice every once in a while to watch something a little bit bonkers. Co-directors/writers Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan have crafted an alluring debut feature that is a must see simply for its unabashed originality. Not everything they throw at the wall sticks, but a fair amount does as they capture a humour and touching melancholy spirit most would think beyond a movie about a farting corpse. Radcliffe is terrific as the corpse, or Manny as he comes to be known, turning from a multi-tool human kit (or Swiss Army Man as it were) into something approaching a fledgling human being with a range of entertaining physical convulsions. Dano is the straight man to the cascade of quirk inducing oddities of Manny. Hank is a pitiful figure and Dano manages to expose his fragility as he becomes a guide to Manny’s new life as a farting cadaver.
As an exercise in absurdist black humour Swiss Army Man is the kind of love it or loathe it film that you want to see produced. With two of the most talented actors of their generation taking the kind of creative risks that cinephiles always seem to long for. Just when you think the film won’t recede into any more baffling a scenario it inevitably does. Recommended for sheer brazen strangeness, mixed with an oddly poignant friendship that defies the laws of nature, mortality and, of course, flatulence.
Dir: Daniel Scheinert, Daniel Kwan
Scr: Daniel Scheinert, Daniel Kwan
Cast: Paul Dano, Daniel Radcliffe, Mary Elizabeth Winstead,
Prd: Eval Rimmon, Lauren Mann, Lawrence Inglee, Jonathan Wang, Miranda Bailey, Amanda Marshall
DOP: Larkin Seiple
Editing: Matthew Hannam
Music: Andy Hull, Robert McDowell
Running time: 97 min
Swiss Army Man is available now on Blu Ray and DVD.