FILM

Swiss Army Man
By Mike Davis With on February 12, 2016

You may have heard about the infamous “farting corpse” movie at Sundance—yes, “farting corpse”—and the walkouts that resulted during its premiere. Sadly, those people missed filmmaking at its finest. Swiss Army Man is a work of collaborative genius. The script writing, directing, casting, acting, editing, set design, and sound design all came together to explore profoundly deep topics through a wonderfully absurdist premise. The audience might have to appreciate bathroom humor to laugh, but anyone who gives the movie its due can observe the deeper truths behind the film’s juvenile façade. In the movie, Paul Dano’s character, Hank, finds himself hopelessly stranded on a deserted island when the body of Daniel Radcliffe’s character washes ashore. Quickly discovering Radcliffe is dead, Hank returns to his suicide attempt. Just then, the corpse begins farting uncontrollably and Hank hatches a successful plot to ride the corpse like a jet ski across the ocean. Once Hank arrives on the mainland, the journey that ensues becomes a sort of buddy movie as the corpse begins to speak and serve as a multi-function tool (storing water, lighting fires, shooting small objects to kill food). Through this journey to civilization, we realize that Hank has always been alone, by choice, and though fearful now of death, has never really lived. All along the way, the corpse, having lost all knowledge of his pervious life, asks element questions, with preschooler naiveté, as he tries to understand the life he now inhabits. His simple probing leads to profound discussions of what it is to really live. In the end, it took true physical isolation to show Hank what community was all about, and it took a corpse to teach him that life is meant to be lived and lived fearlessly. Hardly a scene goes by without a middle school inspired joke, but somehow the directors, Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert managed to create a script that speaks to the deepest part of our humanity. Working in a small group ministry at a church, I doubt I’ve seen a more true depiction of the importance of community, vulnerability, and authenticity. To paraphrase Daniel Scheinert, “We wanted to make a movie that began with a fart joke that made you laugh, and ended with a fart joke that made you cry.” They created for themselves a difficult artistic task of making a movie based on a crude joke that could also make you ponder the great existential questions of life. And, yet, they were able to do just that.

About the Author: Mike Davis
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