August 27, 2017

Nothing is Too Ridiculous: The Brilliantly Stupid Ideas of Directing Duo DANIELS

Explore the brilliance of dogboarding, a farting corpse, and a robot made out of bros.

We've all had those crazy, "stoned" ideas, whether it's riding a block of ice down a hill or turning your house into a blanket fort complete with bar, lounge, and video game corner, but directing duo DANIELS turns them into ingeniously bizarre music videos, shorts, and features films. Made up of Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan, DANIELS has already made a name for itself (themselves?) directing commercials and absurd music videos for The Shins, Foster the People, and most notably DJ Snake and Lil Jon's chart-topping single "Turn Down for What," but last year they took their strange prestige to another level last year with their first feature film Swiss Army Man, starring Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe who plays a farting corpse.

So, what gives? In a creative environment that rewards homogeneity and coloring within the lines, where do these two get off scribbling all over the table? Well, perhaps it has something to do with their unique ability to turn the absurdly stupid into absurdly sincere. In this video, Zach Ramelan explores how DANIELS successfully pulls it all off:

Paul Dano told the LA Times:

One of the earliest things I remember the Daniels telling me was 'is it possible to make a film where the first fart makes you laugh and the last fart makes you cry?' And that felt like an impossible task, but it felt like a worthy thing to aspire too.'

This anecdote perfectly sums up what DANIELS is all about. The college humor of a farting corpse isn't enough to build a film around it, but using it as a vehicle for the growth of a suicidal man stranded on an island can lead to some intensely sincere moments of cinema.

  • A film about a lonely man is dull.
  • A film about a farting corpse is absurd. 
  • A film about a lonely man befriending a farting corpse is brilliantly absurd.
'Swiss Army Man' (2016)

DANIELS doesn't use absurdity as a mere spectacle alone, but as a tool to craft something bigger and more meaningful. Swiss Army Man is a sincere story about loneliness and melancholy. The "Turn Down for What" music video is a comically sensual piece that doesn't use video vixens to make it sexy, but rather the dancing sexual organs of average joes. Interesting Ball reveals the incredible infinite possibilities of life through vignettes of human experiences that fall along the path of a random bouncing ball. 

This is the key to their success: don't do crazy for crazy's sake, do it to reveal something about humanity. The absurdity of it all may be the thing that draws an audience's attention, but the heart and storytelling are what keeps them in their seats.

It's an interesting thing to think about if you're an individual who may have a tendency to leave your weirder ideas safely tucked in the back of your mind, but if DANIELS has taught us anything it's that humanity, as well as their experience of life, is weird. What is film if it's not stories about humans doing life? So, if you want to bring your crazy, "stoner" ideas to life on the screen, take a page from DANIELS' book and give it some heart.      

Your Comment