Film review: The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared

100yearoldmanThe 100-Year-Old Man, to contract the whimsically long title of this Swedish black comedy, is a film that will undeservedly go under the radar even with its international release. Allan Karlsson (Robert Gustafsson) has managed to reach his 100th birthday, but much to his (understandable) dismay he is living in a retirement home. If this film relates anything to the audience, it says if you have enough gumption to survive 100 years, you should have enough to break out and be free for your remaining years. Hey, if you stayed single and childless all your life like Allan, then what have you got to lose? Anyone you could worry is probably dead. At least that’s the macabre humour of Felix Herngren’s film, which is based on the bestselling novel by Jonas Jonasson.

On his 100th birthday Allan can no longer put up with the hyper-sanitised, infantilising world of his retirement home and decides to kickstart his life again. After all, as we soon learn, he did once lead a life of extremes. A series of fateful events follow his escape, and, in a domino effect, Allan is led into an adventure involving gangster-crushing elephants, suitcases engorged with cash, frozen gang members, international heist operations and more. It is Swedish, so in between that there is some R&R in the calming Nordic countryside like Bergman’s Wild Strawberries hazy dream scenery amidst the darkness. If anyone can do noir comedy it is the Scandanavians and this is no exception.

Having strolled out of the nursing home and gone to the deserted train station in his rural hometown, Allan is confronted by a skinhead with a leather vest and giant suitcase. He demands Allan mind said suitcase while he practically lubricates himself into the miniscule station toilet, slapstick style. Afraid of missing his soon departing bus, Allan accidentally steals the case, leading him into a smuggling ring and chase that will last the duration of the film. He finds a fellow veteran of life at the next bus stop handily enough, just as all the events are in this film- a sequence of fateful occurences. The only thing funnier than seeing a centenarian nonchalently shake off a dangerous gang is seeing a centenarian joined by his octogenarian pal give the gangsters the proverbial finger.

Weaving in and out of the present, The 100-Year-Old Man retells the hilariously outlandish life of Allan. From his beginnings in an impoverished household in rural Sweden, Allan was a simple guy. He liked to blow things up, that’s all. His taste for explosives drove him down a route that was far from simple however, meeting everyone from Franco to Stalin, Reagan and Oppenheimer. Without any intentions, Allan has changed the course of history. It is this time-travelling back through the protagonist’s memory that makes it a stand out film. Don’t be fooled by the parallels between this and previous films such as Forrest Gump, most ostensibly, as Herngren’s 2013 film deviates in its thoroughly Sacandi-style of insouciant devilish humour. Whereas Forrest Gump thrives on pathos, The 100-Year-Old Man is fueled by something a bit more base but nevertheless satisfyingly mischievious. In cinemas 04 July 2014. Watch the trailer now on MEG.ie.

Aoife Ryan

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