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Swedish tale laughs at the absurdity of life

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The novel by Jonas Jonasson with the unwieldy name The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared became a huge hit in Sweden when it was first released in 2009.

Being Swedish, I finally relented and struggled through it last year. It isn’t my kind of book. It’s absurd and silly. The characters experience things that couldn’t possibly have happened in real life. However, all the things that I found difficult to stomach in the novel seemed much easier to accept in the film.

Allan Karlsson (played by one of Sweden’s favourite comedians, Robert Gustafsson), a 100-year-old man, escapes from his own birthday party at the old folks’ home – and so begins his adventures. Or so we are made to believe, until we start getting glimpses of all the outrageous things that have happened to him throughout his life.

Allan is the kind of man who cares mainly for a good drink and some dynamite. His fascination with blowing things up puts him in contact with Harry S. Truman, Joseph Stalin and general Franco, and Allan’s strange innocence in political matters holds him in good stead for most of his life.

The film version of the story is certainly still absurd and involves a fair bit of violence that really doesn’t seem to affect the participants in this strange adventure. It is a comedy and I certainly laughed a few times, but it also makes the viewer uncomfortable. The people that Allan meets along the way are likable, especially Gunilla, expertly played by Mia Skäringer, and the Swedish countryside is a delight.

I would expect this film would appeal to a general audience that wants something slightly left of centre; something to make us think about historical events at the same time as it invites us to laugh at the absurdity of life itself.



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