The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared
By now you could be forgiven for thinking that Sweden’s contemporary film output consists entirely of really heavy and often disturbing crime stories. But while the two highest-grossing Swedish films are The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo — the original one — and its first sequel, a madcap comedy has taken third place with a bang. Based on the equally popular novel, Hundraåringen som klev ut genom fönstret och försvann — subtitled in English as The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared — has enough title for two movies, and indeed it crams in both a road-movie romp and a comedic take on 20th century world history that blows Forrest Gump out of the water.
The titular centenarian is Allan Karlsson (Robert Gustafsson), recently placed in a retirement home after his creative attempt at eliminating a fox around his house. But Allan isn’t one for staying put; as the cake for his hundredth birthday comes into his room, he goes out the window and shuffles away in his robe and slippers. At the bus station he buys a ticket for as far as the change in his pocket will take him — not very — and when an incontinent gang member insists Allan hold a suitcase while he uses the bathroom, Allan obeys and holds it right onto the bus.
In the one house where Allan’s bus arrives, he meets Julius (Iwar Wiklander). When the very angry man shows up after his suitcase, they conk him on the head and stick in in the walk-in freezer, finding the suitcase itself full of cash. But the gang’s leader (Jens Hultén) knows where they are, and directs his men after them from his own house arrest. Allan and Julius take off, meeting up eventually with a perpetual student (David Wiberg) and another gang member’s ex (Mia Skäringer) as they blither their way across Sweden.
At the same time, Allan reminisces about his life. He’s not the smartest guy, though thankfully not as dopey as Forrest Gump. He just likes having a good time, which includes drinking and blowing things up. He works testing cannon for a while, before following a colleague to join the Spanish civil war — you get to blow up a lot of things in a war, after all — and ends up meeting General Franco. His life takes him to America, where he works on the Manhattan project, and that of course catches the interest of Stalin and the Soviets, and so on.
Both stories run forward at a pretty fair clip, and as soon as one is beginning to flag director Felix Herngren jumps to the other one, already off on its own next leg. The result is non-stop funny, with a bizarre, almost surreal sense of humor, and it’s just the thing if you’re tired of mainstream American comedy films.
Worth It: yes.
Bechdel Test: fail.
This review also appears at Punch Drunk Critics.