The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared (2013)

Movie Info

Movie Info

Felix Herngren
Run Time
1 hour and 54 minutes

VP Content Ratings

Sex & Nudity
Star Rating
★★★★4 out of 5

Swedish with subtitles and English Narration

Rated R. Running time: 1 hour 54 min.

Our content ratings (1-10); Violence 6; Language 4; Sex/Nudity 2.

Our star rating (1-5): 4

 Deliver me from my enemies, O my God;

protect me from those who rise up against me.

Deliver me from those who work evil;

from the bloodthirsty save me.

Even now they lie in wait for my life;

the mighty stir up strife against me.

For no transgression or sin of mine, O Lord,

for no fault of mine, they run and make ready.

Psalm 59:1-4

Director Felix Herngren’s dark, droll comedy, so full of subdued humor, has won the hearts of Swedish movie-goers, and now is spreading laughter through the art house theaters of the rest of the world as well. Rightly compared to Forest Gump because its clueless hero, who loves to blow things up, mixes with famous leaders at seminal points in 20th Century history (General Franco, Robert Oppenheimer, Albert Einstein’s brother Herbert, Harry Truman, Joseph Stalin, and Ronald Reagan), it also contains elements of two other zany comedies, Zelig and Being There.

The film moves back and forth in time from the now 100-year-old Allan’s escaping from a retirement home and joining up with some eccentric characters to past episodes in his colorful life in the early and mid-20th Century.

Allan Karlsson (Robert Gustafsson) is the son of a revolutionary executed during the early 1920s by the Soviet government, so he is not a praying man. However, the “bloodthirsty” mentioned by the psalmist are certainly after the old man’s life, and the reason for their pursuit of him is due to an innocent rather than a deliberate transgression. While a 100th anniversary birthday party is being prepared for him at his retirement home, Allan, with a bathrobe over his clothes and slippers on his feet, climbs out his window and shambles off to the bus station. He asks to be taken as far as the loose change he lifts from his pocket will take him. When a tattooed thug in a motorcycle vest demands that he watch his suitcase while he uses the small bathroom, the bus arrives and Allan absently minded boards it still pulling the suitcase after him.

The bus has gone when the thug emerges. Breaking out in rage that both suitcase and old man are nowhere to be found, he gets in touch with his boss. There follows a series of cell phone calls during what turns out to be a long chase—and the boss in turn talks with the drug lord about the missing suitcase (though at first not revealing that it is missing). They all have good reason to be concerned—the suitcase has a lot more than Alan paid for his short bus ride; there are 50 million krona in it!

Left off at a tiny village, Alan is befriended by the rascally but kind-hearted retired train attendant Julius (Wiklander) who feeds and boards him. When the thug arrives and threatens Julius, Allan comes up from behind and hits his head with a mallet. Julius locks the unconscious man in a walk-in freezer. The next day they discover Julius had left the refrigeration on, so they pack the crook’s frozen body into a crate headed for a Persian Gulf state and hit the road. With Julius pumping the pair head down the train tracks on a handcar. Soon more tattooed thugs are dispatched by the boss, but by now the two fugitives have picked up companions: Benny (David Wiberg), a mid-twenties scholar who is “almost” a veterinarian and a half-dozen other professions he has studied; and lonely Gunilla (Mia Skäringer), who lives in the country with a pet elephant. Also pursuing them, though not as ardently as the crooks, is a police officer, called in by the worried retirement home staff.

In between escapades Allan, speaking English, lets us in on his past brushes with history and its molders. He is not totally aware of his impact—such as his talk with Oppenheimer that leads the scientist to the breakthrough for the atomic bomb—and the same goes for the dispatch of the crooks in gruesome ways one by one. Allan simply accepts things as they come, which was the advice given him by his mother when he was a boy. And yes, the aforementioned elephant is an agent for the demise of one of the bad guys.

The story is totally absurd, but compared to the inane US comedies so obsessed with sex and bodily waste, it is a breath of fresh air. Our Allan has no interest in sex because during the 30s when the pseudo-science of human eugenics briefly was in vogue, he was subjected to an operation designed to insure that “degenerates” would be unable to reproduce. If there is any moral point to this violent yet funny tale, it would seem to be that God, or Fate, protects certain innocents from “the bloodthirsty.”

This review with a set of discussion questions will be in the August issue of Visual Parables.

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2 Replies to “The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared (2013)”

  1. I’m not sure which version of the book you read, but you have some interesting details very wrong.

    Some that stuck out to me:
    – The thug never phoned his boss, he made the decision it was time to call his boss only when he was hopeless and in the freezer with no reception.

    – Allan hit the thug over the head with a plank.

    – Benny, the mid-twenties scholar, is actually a 50 yr old who spent over 30 years in university living off of his uncles generous allowance.

    – He was totally aware of what his impact would be when speaking to Oppenheimer and delivering the final piece of the puzzle to them. A better example would have been when he let China lose to the communists because the resistance had nobody to blow up their bridges after he ran off with the hostage and mess-boy who tauught him Chinese.

    I would also wholly disagree with the “moral point’ you’ve come up with. I have to say, I’m very disheartened by this review, its almost as if you didn’t even read the book.

    1. I have not read the book. My review is based on the MOVIE–which, judging from your criticism, you have not seen. Thanks for your response, but I believe that my description of the film is accurate. As to the “moral” point, that is always open for discussion. What do you see is the point of the film?

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