Starring: Robert Gustaffson, Iwar Wiklander, David Wiberg
Explosives obsessive Allan Karlsson (Gustaffson) has always lived an eventful life, with bizarre coincidences meaning he has befriended dictators, worked with Harry S. Truman in designing the nuclear bomb and inadvertently caused the fall of the Berlin Wall, but now he has been forced to live a rather dull life in a retirement home. However, on the day of his 100th birthday, Allan decides to jump out of the window and once again bizarre circumstances and coincidences lead to an adventure as strange and peculiar as the life Allan has already led.
Much has been said about how much of an acquired taste Scandinavian humour can be, and how it can often be, as they say “no laughing matter”. Well, though the wit and humour may be a little too dark and dry for some, for me the humour in The 100-Year Old Man is the perfect antidote to the lazy, self-indulgent, make-it-up-as-they-go-along, stretch-a-punch-line-out-as-much-as-they-physically-can ‘humour’ of so many mainstream comedies.
Based on the book of the same name, The 100-Year Old Man is a film with a two pronged narrative: The Forrest Gump style narrated story of Allan’s life, and the story that unfolds after he jumps out of the window on the day of his 100th birthday, and both are as bizarre and slightly bonkers as the other. Though both are incredibly farfetched, extremely farcical and more than a little coincidental, they are both told with enough light hearted self-awareness to get away with it. Keeping it all together are great performances from the entire cast and the sharp script. This not only gives us engaging characters, but means the slightly farcical narrative that may feel slightly slapdash if not told very well, is not only thoroughly enjoyable and constantly hilarious to watch, but it feels that director Felix Herngren (who also co-writes the script) is very much in control of his film. Thankfully Herngren also avoids the preachy and patronising schmaltz that so many mainstream films, particularly those that feature an elderly protagonist, often include to please out of touch studio bosses and mainstream audiences.
There is admittedly very little substance to the film underneath its surface, but that actually works in the film’s favour as it feels that Herngren is very single minded and uncompromising in that he simply presents a story, and then it is up to the audience whether they are willing to go with it or not. It is an approach that is very refreshing compared to mainstream comedies that over compromise to try and please everyone to make as much money as possible, and makes The 100 Year Old Man not only one of the very best comedies of 2014, but one of the best films of 2014. The fact that this film has grossed more than $50million worldwide and is the highest grossing Swedish film of all time would suggest in my mind that the so-called ‘no laughing matter’ of Scandinavian humour does in fact translate rather well to anyone with a brain, no matter what country they are from.
At the centre of the all the lunacy is Robert Gustaffson, and he captures perfectly the mischievous naivety of Allan as he unknowingly affects 20th Century history through his life, but also (while wearing heavy prosthetics) the exact same mischievous naivety of his 100 year old self. Meanwhile, the other supporting cast that either end up joining Allan for the ride or being the gang that chase him for cash he unwittingly steals off of are all excellent. Alan Ford (yes, him!) is also a great watch as (surprise, surprise) a cockney gangster, but if you are making Swedish film that happens to need a cockney gangster, then casting Alan Ford is the perfect choice!
The present day narrative may have a few plot holes, especially in terms of time scale, but it is otherwise a wonderfully engaging and hilarious madcap caper of a film that is perfectly complimented by the intertwining story of Allan’s life and how it cheekily explains why huge historical moments of the 20th century happened. The 100 Year Old Man is a hilarious delight from start to finish, and should serve as an education to those that make all the cynical, lazy mainstream comedies that dominate the box office today.
Do not be fooled by the derogatory stereotypes associated with Scandinavian humour; The 100-Year Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window and Disappeared shows all the rubbish mainstream ‘comedies’ that dominate the box office just how to make a great comedy. It combines farce and intelligence perfectly to create an enjoyable madcap dual narrative with memorable and engaging characters. This is not only the best comedy of 2014, but one of the best films of 2014.