The Daniels, for some, may be an acquired taste, which explains some of the Sundance response to their new film. Thankfully I am not one of the offended; I have loved The Daniels since I was first introduced to their video Turn Down For What, which is undeniable in its visionary awesomeness and body gags.
Visceral, magical, broad, compassionate, corporeal, the Daniels find inspiration in mortality and human bodies in their every form and function – as expression, as vessel, as something to stick on and in another body. I love this – life and our means of living – as a primary artistic preoccupation. Our bodies and their ways are a source of endless curiosity and exploration. And even with this rich subject, The Daniels have found a way to really surprise us, and to make bodies and their mortality even more fascinating and absurd and risible.
Swiss Army Man, The Daniels’ first full length feature film, is guided by a deceptively simple concept. A man (Hank played by Paul Dano), stranded and lost, finds a tool that helps him survive, find his way, and thrive. The tweak is that the tool here is a magic corpse named Manny: a “swiss army man” played by Daniel Radcliffe.
Here are just a few of the handy things Manny the corpse can do: he can propel himself through water like a jetski through his own powerful flatulence. He can dispense clean water from his mouth, and – perhaps the talent that caused the most controversy – his erect penis can point direction like a compass. For those of us familiar with The Daniels, or for those of us who can laugh at and enjoy human physicality, this detail does not disgust but delights. Apparently this was not the case for some of the Sundance audience.
The story of Manny and Hank gets deeper and more intimate as Manny slowly comes back to life and begins to relearn how the world works thanks to Hank’s help. The pair explore what it means to be alive, what it means to love, and what it means to need another person through an action-packed journey to reconnect with civilization.
And, as they start to get closer to the real world, they begin to question their place in everyday existence. Can they, these two men who started out as mere mortals and through their friendship have become something more, something magical, and something a little monstrous, actually find a way to fit in again?
Swiss Army Man is magical, crazy, hilarious buddy film from two visionaries unafraid of a endowing a fart joke with some real significance. This movie is awesome, adorable, thoughtful, absurd and a must see. We should all be so lucky to find our own swiss army man.