By Liv Ingram, November 6 2014 —
With Sweden responsible for Scandinavian design, Ingrid Bergman and ligonberry juice, I trust them in matters of taste. And since The 100-year-old Man Who Climbed Out The Window and Disappeared is the highest-grossing Swedish film of all time, I was sure it would be a comedic gem.
Based on Jonas Jonasson’s 2009 book with the same name, the film follows centenarian Allan Karlsson (Robert Gustafsson). After a fox kills Allan’s beloved cat, Molotov, he feeds the fox some hot-dog-wrapped dynamite for dessert — an act that lands him in an old-folks home.
On his 100th birthday, Allan climbs out the window and buys a one-way bus ticket to the middle of nowhere. Allan acquires a biker’s suitcase after it’s too big for him to take into a comically-small bathroom. When the bus arrives, Allan leaves with the case.
On arrival, Allan meets Julius (Iwar Wiklander). The two discover that the suitcase contains $60 million. Soon the bikers and the police — thinking Allan’s been kidnapped by the bikers — try to track them down, but comedic coincidences and lazy investigative work keep Allan and Julius a step ahead of their pursuers.
Along the way they meet Benny (David Wilberg), a professional student who has nearly completed a dozen degrees, and Gunilla (Mia Skäringer), an animal rights supporter with a pet elephant.
The film hinges on miscommunications and chance encounters that lead to hilarious and bizarre situations. With Allan’s life story told through flashbacks, the film unfolds as if Mr. Magoo starred in Snatch.
Allan’s not a bumbling fool, he’s just seen so many bizarre things that he’s unfazed when situations go sideways.
From working on the Manhattan Project, to starting the Spanish Civil War and accidentally saving Franco’s life, to working with the CIA, acquiring a suitcase of gang money isn’t the weirdest thing that’s happened to Allan.
While the plot often slips into fantasy, Gustafsson’s dead-pan humour is suited to an old man who has seen it all. Between his unfazed tone and impeccable timing, his performance solidifies him as the funniest man in Sweden.
Despite being narrated in English, most of the dialogue is in Swedish. But if there was ever a film that made subtitles worth reading, it’s this absurdist gem.
Some say comedy is region specific, but this film’s outlandish creativity will translate into a cult following on this side of the Atlantic.
The 100-year-old Man Who Climbed Out The Window and Disappeared opens in Calgary on Nov. 7 at the Globe Cinema.