It's been a long time since the Harry Potter movies captured the hearts of an entire generation. Since the films came to an end, the stars have worked hard to step out from the considerable shadows of their childhood roles. And overall they've been successful; star Daniel Radcliffe has made a name for himself (and shown impressive acting chops) in a variety of independent films. But while his newest movie is getting a lot of attention, it might not be the sort he was aiming for.
Swiss Army Man, which premiered at Sundance, tells the story of a guy (Paul Dano) who gets stranded on a desert island with a corpse (Daniel Radcliffe). Dano befriends the corpse, which has a propensity towards flatulence. Translation: the corpse farts. A lot.
— UPROXX (@UPROXX) January 23, 2016
If the idea of watching the child star of a beloved film series as a corpse farting his way through a movie (and engage in some other activities that frankly we'd rather not go into here) disturbs you, you're not alone: tons of people walked out of the premiere, and many were frankly horrified by the little they witnessed.
Counted at least 30 walkouts within first 30 mins of the unwatchable SWISS ARMY MAN before I bailed myself at 40-minute mark. DO NOT SEE IT. — Jeff Sneider (@TheInSneider) January 22, 2016
— Kate Aurthur (@KateAurthur) January 23, 2016
Others were intrigued by the artistic implications of what is decidedly a strange and subversive piece of filmmaking.
If I farted while interviewing the SWISS ARMY MAN people, their artistic credibility would hinge on embracing it. an interesting predicament — david ehrlich (@davidehrlich) January 23, 2016
Still others simply were amazed that the film even existed, that such a grouping of actors and filmmakers had come together to make such a weird movie. Then again, independent cinema is often about strange and unexpected work, far off the beaten mainstream Hollywood path (and believe me, Swiss Army Man is as far off the path as you can go). After all, isn't Sundance supposed to be about exploring what cinema can create?
I've seen thousands of movies and never seen anything like SWISS ARMY MAN. Insane. Crazy. Like entering a bonkers dream. Wow. #sundance
— Steven Weintraub (@colliderfrosty) January 23, 2016
"I get to play a farting corpse? And a guy rides me across the ocean? Powered by my farts?! Sign me up!" ~ Daniel Radcliffe, apparently. — Thorn Vicious (@ViciousPrick) January 24, 2016
"An existential drama about mortality, love and friendship... in which Paul Dano rides Daniel Radcliffe's farting corpse like a jet ski"
— Josh (@Man_Overboard) January 24, 2016
Some suggested the (incredibly valid) theory that the filmmakers were simply messing with the audience and the art house lovers that typically populate Sundance, creating a high-profile film populated with famous actors, then forcing people to watch a movie about a dead farting guy for 95 minutes.
Can't decide if SWISS ARMY MAN is completely trolling the audience. #sundance — Richard Lawson (@rilaws) January 23, 2016
Perhaps what is most remarkable and unexpected, however, is how many people genuinely seemed to connect with this movie. (Keep in mind, this is a movie where a man rides a farting corpse across the ocean). Few of them could explain it, but Swiss Army Man has a distinct number of supporters. They reveled in the surreal experience and found it an oddly touching and affecting film, despite (or perhaps because of) the abundance of fart jokes.
Swiss Army Man - Wacky, surreal, at times brilliant. The most amazing anti-depressant you'll take. It really clicked part of the way thru.
— Alex Billington (@firstshowing) January 23, 2016
SWISS ARMY MAN is absolutely bonkers and brilliant in equal measure. #Sundance — Anna Klassen (@AnnaJKlassen) January 23, 2016
— Terrell Garrett (@TerrellTGarrett) January 23, 2016
Love it or loathe it, Swiss Army Man is making serious waves. The actors are being applauded for their performances (Dano in particular is being singled out for his remarkable work), and the social media response has grown by leaps and bounds. But how do the filmmakers feel about the controversy their work has caused? The directors gave us the weird and wonderful video for "Turn Down For What" by DJ Snake and Lil' Jon, and their visual skills are on clear display (plus their penchant for the unusual). And Radcliffe himself appears delighted by how confused and disgusted audiences appear to be.
"It's exciting, to be honest, using farts other than comedy, like using them for plot and emotion and making some people super uncomfortable," Radcliffe said in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. "There is something wonderful about it.” So maybe these polarized views are exactly what the filmmakers were hoping for; a dramatic reaction that steps outside the usual fare Sundance has to offer.
But the real question remains: is Swiss Army Man a brave and subversive new type of filmmaking that challenges viewers, or is it a plain old stinker? You'll have to judge that for yourself (if you have the stomach for it). Regardless of what the critics and fans ultimately decide, one thing is for sure: there's never been a movie out there quite like this one.