The highest grossing Swedish film of all time, this black comedy follows the anti-hero centenarian (with a flair for mischievous shenanigans) on an unintentionally destructive spin through the highlights of the 20th century.
Echoes of the hilarious ineptitude of Woody Allen’s “Take the Money and Run” and the historic kookiness of “Forrest Gump” turn up throughout “The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared,” starring Sweden’s beloved comic actor Robert Gustafsson. It’s a hoot and a half.
Based on the fanciful international bestseller of the same name, the film is directed with an appropriately wry touch by Felix Herngren. It captures the quintessential baby boom optimism about aging even as it offers up an appealing template for what adventures might unfold if, or when, someone hits the century mark.
Adapted by Herngren and co-writer Hans Ingemansson, “The 100-Year-Old Man” begins as preparations for Allan Karlsson’s (Gustafsson) 100th birthday are in full swing at the nursing home to which he’s recently been relegated. Candles are being counted, and recounted. News photographers are showing up. Speeches are being readied. There’s so much hustle and bustle that no one notices Allan slipping out his window until the assembled crowd bursts into his room, candles blazing, to find him gone.
Escaped is more like it.
Allan, it turns out, is usually both innocent and guilty of whatever mischief is happening around him. He is an honest sort who, from an early age, loved blowing things up. Indeed, it was the dynamite surprise he designed for the fox who killed his cat when Allan was 99 that landed him in the nursing home.
The ripple effect of those characteristics — honesty and a preference for problem solving with explosive devices — undergoes expansive examination as he narrates the events of his life, which come along in a series of flashbacks. Meanwhile, Allan’s new misadventure is also unfolding.
Allan, like Forrest Gump, turned up in the lives of many world leaders when seminal events were about to happen. And in each case, he somehow bumbles into the solution for whatever question or issue needs resolving each time. Which is exactly what happens to the newly escaped Allan at 100, except the people whose lives he’s affecting are ordinary ones.
Herngren manages the constant movement between then and now with a great deal of ease. Director of photography Goran Hallberg, production designer Mikael Varhelyi and costume designer Madeleine Kihlbom Thor help keep the joke going as they conjure up comical parodies of the past and poke just as much fun at the present. Makeup artists Eva von Bahr and Love Larson keep the joke going in aging Allan, to say nothing of the fun they have with the folks whom casting director Claes Stenmark chose for the roles of such well-known figures as Spain’s Gen. Franco (Koldo Losada), Josef Stalin (Algirdas Romualdas), Harry S. Truman (Kerry Shale) and a few lesser-knowns, like Al Einstein’s brother Herbert (David Shackleton).
To be clear, Allan’s is not a life of ease. And even at 100, he finds himself with a string of lethal foes. The first is a brash biker named Bolt (Simon Seppanen) who demands Allan hold on to his suitcase while he uses the bus station bathroom at Allan’s first post-escape stop.
That suitcase, which happens to be filled with a great deal of money, will drive the rest of the action. Since driving any sort of action isn’t easy if you’re 100, helping Allan out is a new collection of friends he’ll pick up along the way, starting with Julius (Iwar Wiklander), the old man who minds the non-working train station and is more than happy to tag along.
Before the suitcase and Allan reach their final destination, there will be a lot more bad guys to dispense with: a Chief Inspector Clouseau-type, Det. Chief Inspector Aronsson (Ralph Carlsson), to evade; a haplessly overeducated but ever-indecisive Benny (David Wiberg) to advise; the lovely bohemian Gunilla (Mia Skaringer) to bring along and the elephant she’s rescued.
There is a great deal of silliness about Allan’s journey from start to finish and no real message other than to never stop taking life as it comes. But there is also a great deal of fun in watching a 100-year-old man climb out a window and disappear.
firstname.lastname@example.org, 7th May 2015
As Allan Karlsson (Robert Gustafsson, the Swedish Harry Enfield) approaches his centenary, he decides to bust out of the old folks home and take the next train out of town. An encounter with a skinhead at the station leaves our elderly hero in possession of a suitcase – a MacGuffin that various menacing gang members will chase for the rest of the movie.
Meanwhile, Allan will acquire his own makeshift gang, including a nervous, indecisive young academic, a burly stationmaster, and a lady with an elephant. Mostly, he reminisces: a stream of tall-tale recollections that casts him as an alternative Forrest Gump.
Allan Karlsson, we soon learn, has gotten drunk with both Franco and Stalin (on different occasions, obviously), and has spent time in the company of Robert Oppenheimer, Harry S Truman, Ronald Reagan and Albert Einstein’s fictional idiot brother, Herbert.
There are many cartoon explosions in this pathologically whimsical screen adaptation of Jonas Jonasson’s internationally bestselling novel of the same name (Hundraåringen som klev ut genom fönstret och försvann). These sometimes fatal pyrotechnics form a kind of punctuation mark and also set the strange tone: think gallows humour with banana skin- brand slapstick.
Having jettisoned some of the source novel’s tangents – hitchhiking with Winston Churchill, sailing with Madame Mao – Felix Herngren’s adaptation remains a busy, cluttered affair, characterised by such unlikely plot devices as convenient amnesia, phrenologically motivated castration and accidental espionage.
Chances are, the viewer’s taste for zaniness will be exhausted long before the film’s is. But if you keep pace with the relentless wackiness, this is plenty entertaining. Between Matti Bye’s carnivalesque score, Göran Hallberg’s colourful lensing and the likeably quirky players, you couldn’t say there was a dull moment.
Alan Ford’s Bali-dwelling hoodlum adds still more pile to this shaggy dog story. Can a geriatric action hero take on Transformers 4 and win? Box office receipts from Scandinavia suggest as much. Go, you crazy centenarian, go.
Tara Brady, The Irish Times, 4th July 2014.