Feature Review: SWISS ARMY MAN


Written and directed by Dan Kwan & Daniel Schienert


The highlight of the Q&A following the premiere of Swiss Army Man at the Arclight Hollywood was when Dan Kwan held up his cell phone to the microphone to play the audience a recorded fart. It was during this time that we learned that many of the fart sounds in the film were actual farts, though the filmmakers did actually try creating artificial fart sounds using ordinary household products, but none quite sounded wet enough for a jet ski propelled by a dead man's ass. Paul Dano was also on-hand to relay a story about going over at Daniel Radcliffe's apartment months prior to filming. After a few drinks, Radcliffe asked, "Do you want to start sticking your fingers in my mouth now?" Dano politely declined and recommended they wait until shooting starts.

And that's partly what makes Swiss Army Man so great-- the dedication to the story on by all parties involved. It's rare in this day and age for something to actually make onto a movie screen and feel... different. But that's exactly what Dan Kwan and Daniel Schienert did. I can speak from the writer's side of things, and tell you that too often great ideas are adjusted, compromised or just flat-out tossed aside out of fear of appealing to the masses (or in some cases, the studios), and those great ideas turn devolve into mediocrity or worse. 

Swiss Army Man is about a castaway who finds a dead body that comes back to life in order to show the lonely castaway how to truly live. That was the great idea and they stuck to their guns. In their world, Manny the dead man (Radcliffe) has all the tools that the castaway (Dano) needs to survive, and uses every part of his body to do so. His farts propel them to sail across the water, his spit can quench your thirst, his erection points the way home-- none of these things are exactly the PC kinds of storytelling devices you'd find in 99% of the movies out there, and guaranteed if this was a studio film, all these ideas would've been shot down in the rewrites. "Hmm, how about he points with his leg instead of his penis? Legs are funny, right?"

But the directing duo known as Daniels didn't fold. They told their story the way that it had to be told and the result was fantastically imaginative, beautiful movie-making that I haven't seen in years. It hits all the senses-- you can practically smell the farts, I swear. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll get angry, you'll feel happy, you find moments where you can relate and you'll feel human. Dano and Radcliffe are mind-blowing. Not only can I not recommend this film to everyone who loves movies, I'll take it a step further and say this is the type of film that will inspire other filmmakers to make better films.



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