This past summer, a film titled “Swiss Army Man” was released in theaters. Most reading this column have probably never heard of it. The few who have likely only know it based on the reputation of its tabloid nickname: “the Daniel Radcliffe farting-corpse movie.” Yes, it does star Daniel Radcliffe. And yes, he does play the role of a farting corpse. And surprisingly enough, it is the most touching film I have ever seen.
The film, written and directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (known collectively as DANIELS), tells the story of a young man (Paul Dano) who is apparently abandoned on a desert island until a corpse (Radcliffe) washes up on shore. This corpse begins speaking to the young man, who soon discovers that the cadaver and its natural functions can be used as a sort of tool (hence the title), including: farts used as a flamethrower, his throat to launch small objects machine-gun-style, and of course an erection that functions as a compass. I swear to God this movie is endearing – you’re just going to have to take my word on this.
I’m not going to talk too much about the plot of “Swiss Army Man” here though, as there simply isn’t much need. Though a truly original and bizarre movie, it is relatively simple. This simplicity does not weaken the film, however. Rather, it emboldens the heart of its own storytelling as it blends the macabre and the childish to reflect on the nature of loneliness, friendship and love. In “Swiss Army Man,” DANIELS explore the humanity in the insignificant aspects of life that we are often too embarrassed to talk about.
Beautiful narrative aside, another reason I love this film is that it so wonderfully highlights what is missing from most other movies. “Swiss Army Man” is a properly cinematic experience, eschewing the pablum of the film industry’s ever-increasing risk of being “spoiled” by the audience simply knowing the bare facts of a narrative. It cannot be boiled down to just a list of events. It is a story that belongs in film and film alone; no other medium could convey it honestly.
In a time when Hollywood’s near-refusal to innovate causes many viewers to become jaded amidst the cynicism of trope-ridden adaptations and remakes, the “farting-corpse movie” is a freshly genuine film that reminds us of why we first fell in love with cinema.
“Swiss Army Man” is set for home media release on Oct. 4, and I have already preordered my copy.