The new film Swiss Army Man just premiered at Sundance and had audience members so grossed out they walked out of the movie. I stayed, and my inner 12-year-old boy was glad I did.
When I think about the movies that get into Sundance, I usually think about quirky dramadies with dysfunctional families and offbeat, feel-good stories. Napoleon Dynamite and Welcome to the Dollhouse are good examples. The new film Swiss Army Man, starring Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe, is not like either of those two films. In fact, it’s not like any film I’ve ever seen.
Swiss Army Man is about a man named Hank (Dano) who’s stranded on a deserted island. When a corpse (Radcliffe) washes ashore, Hank thinks about taking the dead man’s belt to use as a noose to hang himself. But as soon as he removes the belt, the corpse begins to fart. And it farts a lot. So much so that Hank begins to ride the corpse like a WaveRunner as it blasts enough gas to propel him through the ocean. After that, the movie digs deep into the premise of using a human body like a Swiss Army knife for survival.
Yes, this movie is silly, immature and scatological. There are other bodily fluids that make an appearance. But the filmmakers commit to the premise so intensely that I couldn’t look away. After all, how many uses does a dead body have? Turns out, quite a few. At one point, Hank uses the corpse’s erection to make a sundial. Gross? Clever? I thought it was hilarious. Plugging the corpse’s rectum with a wine cork was even funnier.
Radcliffe seems to be taking a lot of risks lately with his choice in films, but who can blame him for wanting to wash away the squeaky-clean image he earned as a child star? Without a name like his, certainly this movie wouldn’t have gotten made. Radcliffe recently told Rolling Stone, “It was not a hard sell. There wasn’t any pushback from my team or whatever — the people I’m closest to know my tastes.”
Clearly, Radcliffe has the taste of a 12-year-old boy, and that’s OK with me.
Swiss Army Man premiered at Sundance Jan. 23.