Title: The 100 Year Old Man …..
Director: Felix Herngren
Major Players: Robert Gustaffson, Iwar Wiklander
Out Of Five? Four
The winner of the longest film title of the year has yet to be announced – should such an award exist, of course – but way out in the lead would be the Scandi black comedy, The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared. That said, it would be a serious contender for any black comedy trophies knocking around as well.
Based on the best-seller by Jonas Jonasson, this is the story of Allan (Robert Gustaffson), who lives in a care home and, on his 100th birthday, decides he’s had enough of institutionalised life and sets off for one last adventure. He soon finds himself embroiled in all kinds of nefarious activities, including murder, all of which are connected to a suitcase packed with money. And, along the way, he relates the extraordinary – and often explosive – story of his life, which involves encounters with General Franco, Stalin, Robert Oppenheimer and President Reagan.
Those meetings are just the tip of the iceberg of his life, which has been built on his love of explosives and blowing things up. It initially puts him in a mental hospital, because one of his experiments kills somebody, yet he still manages to become something of an expert with explosives. What he’s not great at is dealing with people and the real world in general but, despite that, he has a laid-back attitude to life, believing that you never know what’s round the corner and things will work out the way they’re meant to.
In some ways, it’s not far away from the world of Forrest Gump. And in others it couldn’t be more different. The parallels with Gump’s experiences in Vietnam and his rubbing shoulders with the famous are obvious. But what the film avoids is the grating homespun philosophy that characterised Zemeckis’ Oscar winner. Gone are those comments about life being like a box of chocolates (obviously Mama Gump never saw a box of chocolates, otherwise she’d have known there’s always a card inside telling you exactly what you’re gonna get) and they’re replaced by something much darker and more biting. We’re still getting all that world history, but this time from a distinctly cock-eyed viewpoint.
The film is achingly funny in a black, and often bleak, way. The original minder of the money- crammed suitcase, one of a gang of colourfully nasty thugs, dies in a freezer – because Allan’s new found friend Julius had turned it on and forgot to switch it off. Another member of the gang dies under the weight of an elephant after slipping on some of its dung. And there’s plenty more like that. Scandi humour is clearly as dark as its drama, but it’s easy to forget that Scandinavians can do comedy as well. And, if this is anything to go by, they most certainly can do it!
Parody isn’t beyond them either, in the shape of the bungling cop on the trail of that suitcase. With his hang dog face, he has all of the gloom that we associate with Scandi detectives, but simply none of the skills. Rather like Allan, he simply lets things happen to him, so he ends up solving cases totally by accident.
Robert Gustaffson, who plays Allan, undergoes some very effective make up to look 100 and the years leading up to it. But aging isn’t just about make-up: it’s about getting the walk and voice right as well, and he nails it with precision, yet still manages to maintain that air of surprise and innocence that permanently surrounds his character.
The original novel has legions of followers. I’ve not read it, so I can’t say how faithful the film is to Jonasson’s book, but it’s most definitely whetted my appetite to give it a try. That, however, will need to once I’ve stopped laughing at thought of the many laugh-out-loud scenes in the film. So it’ll have to wait.
The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared is released around the UK on Friday, 4 July.