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Arts & Culture

'Swiss Army Man' Makes The Absurd Sweetly Endearing

Hank (Paul Dano) finds much needed companionship in a farting corpse (Daniel Radcliffe) that washes up onshore in "Swiss Army Man."
A24
Hank (Paul Dano) finds much needed companionship in a farting corpse (Daniel Radcliffe) that washes up onshore in "Swiss Army Man."

Daniel Radcliffe's 'farting corpse movie' finally arrives in theaters

Companion viewing

"Silent Running" (1972)

"Moon" (2009)

"Her" (2013)

The movie “Swiss Army Man” (opening in select San Diego area theaters on July 1) provoked walkouts when it premiered at Sundance earlier this year. Those people missed out on one of the year's most highly original films.

Hank (Paul Dano) has apparently been stranded on an island for a long enough period of time to prompt him to attempt suicide. But as he's dangling from a makeshift noose, he spies a body (Daniel Radcliffe) washed up on shore. Hank is ecstatic to finally have company on the island. But the body appears to be dead.

Hanks tries to resuscitate the man and that's when the body begins to fart. The flatulence becomes so extreme that Hank rides the corpse — who takes on the name Manny — like a Jet Ski back to civilization.

That's why “Swiss Army Man” was initially known as Daniel Radcliffe’s farting corpse movie. And that’s an absolutely accurate description of the absurd premise of the film.

It has been described as a "Cast Away" take on "Weekend at Bernie's" directed by Michel Gondry or Spike Jonze. That's accurate too. Yet it is also something uniquely it's own and these comparisons have only been used to try and make the novelty of the film more accessible.

What makes the film such a delight is how the Daniels (that's how filmmakers Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan credit themselves) turn something so impossibly ridiculous into a genuinely sweet tale about our need for human connection.

Hank is so desperately lonely that he seems able to reanimate a corpse into a best friend that he can share all his awkwardness, embarrassment, fears, bewilderment and hopes. The film leaves it up to the viewer to decide whether this is a fantasy all in his head or perhaps some perverse miracle. The point the Daniels seem to want to make is that it doesn't matter. These two create a magical world filled with do-it-yourself ingenuity (Hank creates a movie theater and shadow puppet films). And while they find companionship in each other, they are isolated from the real world.

The film falters in the final reel, not knowing how to bring the absurd back into the real world. But until then, “Swiss Army Man” (rated R for language and sexual material) proves to be a highly inventive, deliciously refreshing and even poignant film.