Wednesday, July 02, 2014

The One Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window and Disappeared Review

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Directed by: Felix Herngren
Written by: Felix Herngren & Hans Ingemansson
Starring: Robert Gustafsson, Alan Ford
Running time: 114 minutes
Release date: TBA

Upon reading Jonas Jonasson's epically-titled novel, The One Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared, it was clear that it was exactly the kind of whirlwind, multi-faceted, bizarre adventure story that would translate brilliantly to the silver screen, should it be handled properly. The Swede's quickly laid claim to this fictional odyssey hailing from their homeland, and having a Swedish team behind this film (rather than, say, snapped up by the Americans) is the perfect way to go as their techniques of capturing the story on film naturally encompasses and reflects their own style and culture. Already, it has become one of the most successful Swedish films ever, so there is evidently a winning formula of some sort at play here.

Directed and co-written by Felix Herngren, this madcap comedy follows one Allan Karlsson on a journey through a lifetime, starting on the day of his one hundredth birthday, this also being the day he decides to add to his life's escapades by making a break from his nursing home and plodding on to the next bus to anywhere. Immediately, he finds himself embroiled in a tricky predicament with a notorious yet hopeless biker gang and a suitcase full of millions. Alongside this most recent turn of events, we are shown how his penchant for and expertise in blowing things up with dynamite takes him on a journey across continents and brings him into contact with a series of significant political figures, the narrative having fun with reshaping historical events to suit its own fictional purposes.

Allan forges new friendships as he casually sinks deeper into the mess he has created by wandering off with the suitcase, made up of the morally grey Julius, the academically fickle Benny and feisty elephant-rescuer Gunilla. All take up their positions as key players in the animated and increasingly dramatic game that is Allan's life, on the run from a line up of doltish bad guys. It is laughably ironic that Allan seems to be someone who expects so little from life (and is perfectly content in this settlement) and yet constantly finds himself in the most curious of situations. This man, adhering to the mantra of trying not to think too much and just do, certainly has some stories to tell and we are provided with entertainment in spades in witnessesing it.

The accuracy and understanding of the screenplay here would be crucial to the to the tone and therefore overall success or failure of the feature, and thankfully it imbibes the same easy humour as that which the book exudes. At times the camera's flourishes may be a touch exaggerated, but overall it does this in a way that compliments the devil may care tone of the comedy (brushing off multiple gruesome deaths as though the victims had done no more than decide to lay down and take a nap). Nothing about the film takes itself too seriously, which is exactly the way it needed to be if it was to anywhere near reproduce the same marked charm as Jonasson's novel.

The novel itself tells of a very extensive journey - a lot can happen in the space of one hundred years - so it is a shame when certain characters and events are missed out, only made up for by the way the episodes we do see being executed wittily and at an upbeat pace. Lively and absorbing from open to close, it dances its way carefree through history and races through the present but, as usual, it is probably asking too much to expect the cinematic adaptations of novels to be as good as or better than the literature from which they derive. Herngren's film does not get to cover Allan's incredible life experiences in enough, or even all, the detail but it does capture the humour of characters almost flawlessly - a vital point for this adaptation in particular - and they have fun with it, meaning we can too.

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