100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, The

There are many great pleasures to growing old, and though society would prefer to warehouse the aged in a futile bid to affirm the perky flesh of youth, director Felix Herngren sets a 100-year-old man loose on an unsuspecting public, and lets us relish the resulting devastation.

The explosions are both literal and figurative in this story adapted from Jonas Jonasson’s novel with the awkwardly long title, because the 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared happens to be an explosives expert with an ability to see the truth.

Allan Karlsson (Robert Gustafsson) loves to blow stuff up. It’s a talent he discovered as a young lad in short pants, and though it eventually set him on a life course filled with dismemberment and mutilation, he learned to find happiness amid the body parts.

Yes, there’s a certain amount of horror to this comedy from the darker side of the already sombre Swedish psyche, and Herngren demands his viewer adjusts quickly: He throws a severed head into the middle of the frame.

Images such as these are timelessly grotesque, and could very well ignite the fumes of current events, but in context, they work a sick magic.

Herngren essentially demands we accept the ugly reality of consequence in the opening moments of his film, but at the same time, he gives us the distance to see a certain humour in the denouement because our hero is really old.

He’s also entirely matter-of-fact, and through his dry, steadfast narration that quietly mocks Dickensian sentimentality by adopting its structure, but none of its flowery prose or emotional escapades, Allan lets us see the human comedy with surprisingly clear vision.

Moving back and forth through time, Herngren starts the movie in the present day, showing us Allan’s breakout, his random arrival at a train station, and his chance encounter with a gang member hauling a large suitcase.

When Allan ends up with the suspicious luggage, the gang member tries to hunt him down. The only problem is, Allan has no plan so his actions and his movements are entirely random. As the cat-and-mouse chase ensues, we get to learn about Allan’s past life in the army, his time on the Manhattan Project, his relationship with Stalin and a variety of other insanely unlikely scenarios that may not be believable, but nonetheless access history from a completely different point of view: A narrator without an ego-stake in the outcome of his own story.

This movie works because Allan doesn’t just blow up bridges and atoms, he creates the biggest bang of all when he powers up the super-collider of humanity. Allan smashes egos together: he violently separates intellectual head from carnal torso, and in the process, creates an opening for cosmic justice.

We like Allan because he’s self-confident without being self-absorbed. He’s empathetic without being maudlin, and he’s entirely unconcerned with what anyone thinks about him. He is the living definition of what makes aging enjoyable, and in so many ways, such a relief.

You know the ride is going to end, but until it does, you might as well enjoy it, and maybe explode a few of your own myths along the way.

-KATHERINE MONK, CANADA.COM

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