by / July 7th, 2014 /

The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared

Review by on July 7th, 2014

 2/5 Rating

Director: Felix Herngren
Cast: Robert Gustafsson, Iwar Wiklander, David Wiberg, Alan Ford.
Cert: 15A
Runtime: 112 minutes
Release Date: July 4th

Last Christmas, I gave you my heart… but meanwhile in Sweden, thousands of cinemagoers gave theirs to Hundraåringen som klev ut genom fönstret och försvann, which admittedly makes for a less catchy song. After its record-breaking performance over the festive period at home, the film adaptation of Jonas Jonasson’s hit novel is attempting to repeat that success abroad with the slightly-catchier title, The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared.

The titular protagonist, Allan Karlsson, performs the titular action, escaping from his retirement home, on the eve of a birthday party for him to celebrate his hitting triple-digits. Adventure ensues, as he acquires a suitcase full of money and finds himself on the run (although ‘on the shuffle’ might be more accurate) from an angry drug lord and his goons, encountering many colourful characters on his way around the country. I would say, this journey forces him to confront his own mortality, if Karlsson’s life had not already been filled with literally explosive moments which should already have provoked this kind of meditation. As if this madcap, screwball story were not meaty enough, the film is liberally seasoned with flashbacks, ranging from his early, fatal experiments with dynamite, to fighting on both sides in the Spanish Civil War, and discussing the creation of the atomic bomb with Robert Oppenheimer himself.

This, then, is a very busy film, inevitably evoking Forrest Gump and even Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure by times. While many films can be described in terms of an ‘It’s X meets Y’ formulation, it’s rare that one attempts to be ‘X and Y’, so densely-packed is the plot here, potentially to its detriment. Narrative convolutions and unusually-triggered flashbacks, not to mention ‘cameos’ from famous historical figures, are probably supposed to up the ante and increase the wackiness of the film, but the viewer’s goodwill for zaniness is exhausted pretty early on.

It is clear, too, from the over-the-top, carnivalesque score to the sharp, zany pacing that the desired outcome is a breathless comedy. Yet there is a sharper, darker edge to this film that may be down to the Scandinavian sensibility of the source material, meaning that some scenes may not strike the viewer as witty, insightful sources of comedy. I’m not talking death-by-elephant, necessarily – although that does happen, and there’s nothing wrong with some well-placed gallows humour – but the detachment and indifference from our protagonist to some fairly stark developments in world history occasionally reads as a little short-sighted, if not downright chilling. (The recent Studio Ghibli film The Wind Rises, about an engineer who designed WWII-era Japanese fighter planes, had some similar issues.)  This is not to take from Gustafsson’s often-deadpan performance, which is consistent and well-played throughout, just to say that, at times, it runs the dual risk of both alienating the audience, and evoking a similar reaction on his behalf – indifference to the main character is a pretty major problem in any film.

The 100 Year Old Man… has an intriguing premise, and perhaps it works better on the page, but on screen it’s a mess of subplots, flashbacks, and new tangents which results in a little tonal confusion and mixed results. It might raise a few chuckles from fans of dark, zany humour and explosions: (where you at, Guy Richie fans?) others might do well to climb out of a window and run away.