Films like Swiss Army Man, starring Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe as a stranded man and his corpse friend, respectively, are the reason I love Sundance Film Festival. Premiering on day 2 of the 2016 slate, Swiss Army Man, directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (otherwise known as The Daniels), is a film that provoked some audience members to walk out of the screening. It had others, myself included, laughing, crying, and applauding our butts off. Yet whether you loved it or hated it (because there seems to be no middle ground when it comes to this bizarre flick), it is inarguably an entirely unique film. It takes wild risks — like having one of its leads be dead for the entirety of the film, or peppering in enough fart/poop/masturbation jokes to last a life time. It's absolutely bonkers — and brilliant.
"[The film] was an opportunity to explore big ideas like mortality, but with fart jokes so we didn't feel too self conscious about it being a full on drama," Scheinert says. His co-director Kwan adds, "We like to explore extremes. So the dumbest ideas mixed with the most personal ideas."
"The script was really funny and original," Radcliffe — The third Daniel to be attached to the project — says. "Paul wrote to me and said, 'I think these directors are crazy geniuses,' essentially. The chance to play a dead guy in this kind of context was just too much fun to pass up."
Set in a deserted island landscape — a beach, then the forest — Dano plays a stranded suicidal mao who befriends a constantly farting corpse (Radcliffe). Through a series of adventures and unconventional survival tactics, the pair go on a journey to find their way home.
When asked what to do, and not to do, if ever burdened by finding a corpse in real life, the stars of the film had some advice. "Definitely don't carry it around," Dano says. "Definitely poke it with a stick," Radcliffe adds.
I ask the pair, if they found themselves in Dano's character's situation — stranded on a deserted island — what three items they might want to have on hand. "I'm assuming I can't have a speed boat?" Radcliffe asks. "OK, a book. But I can't pick which one right now."
"I'd bring my girlfriend," Dano says. "I don't think we can take people, Paul," Radcliffe interjects. (I assure the pair that people, as long as they are alive, are fair game.) "OK, so then yes, my girfriend, a book..."
"Probably a lighter or a knife," Dano says. "Ooh, yeah! Maybe like some food," Radcliffe reasons.
"No," Dano says bluntly.
"Well, we've established that you would last a lot longer on a deserted island than I would," Radcliffe concludes.
Images: Blackbird Films