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The title of this film is so long that it's brought me up against the 100-character limit for LJ entry titles - something which I can't remember ever happening before. So I'll have to note here that the full name of its director is Felix Herngren, and its original Swedish release title is Hundraåringen som klev ut genom fönstret och försvann. I saw it earlier this week with the lovely ms_siobhan and planet_andy at the National Media Museum in Bradford, and we laughed like drains the whole way through, punctuated by the occasional wince. The version we saw was subtitled for the most part, but where the main character spoke off-screen in a narrative voiceover (which he did quite a lot), it was dubbed with by an English-speaking (though Swedish-accented) voice. There was also one character, a wide-boy Cockney gangster, who was English anyway and didn't speak any Swedish, so fair portions of the dialogue must be in English in the original version, and presumably sub-titled for Swedish audiences.

It's a black comedy which reminded me in equal measures of Ealing comedies about criminal gangs (e.g. The Lavender Hill Mob, The Ladykillers) and 'charmed life' movies such as Being There and Forrest Gump. As the title suggests, it follows the adventures of Allan Karlsson, a 100-year-old man who climbs out of the window of the retirement home where he has been placed, and by chance and coincidence finds himself on the run with a suitcase full of money and a neo-Nazi gang hot on his tail. But interspersed with it are a series of flash-backs covering his own life from birth to the present day, in which he stumbles largely accidentally from one to another pivotal moment in the history of the 20th century. Without guile or design, and with little more than an 'easy come, easy go' attitude and a fondness for blowing things up, Allan variously meets, helps or sometimes pisses off Franco, Oppenheimer, Truman, Stalin, Regan, Gorbachev and many others, never quite getting found out for the chancer he is, and always just managing to avoid the disastrous potential consequences of his actions.

It was the long sweep of the flash-back narrative which reminded me more of Being There and Forrest Gump, while the criminal gang narrative sits closer to the Ealing comedies. But of course the two genres are not that different really, since they both depend on coincidence, farce and the human willingness to project qualities onto other people which they don't really possess, which is why the two threads of the film worked so well together as different perspectives on the same central character.

It's got to be said that the humour is pretty black at times. The audience is invited to laugh at things like the sight of an essentially-innocent person's decapitated head bouncing off the bonnet of his car while his mistress sits screaming in the passenger seat, for example, and quite often Allan and his friends are the cause of these deaths - though their actions are always carefully coded as accidental, and the victims as (to a greater or lesser degree) criminal. Whether you find the film funny and enjoyable or not is going to depend on whether you are willing to suspend normal morality (in the same sense as suspending disbelief) in order to laugh at that. That said, I don't think that kind of humour is utterly bereft of a moral compass either. There can be quite some moral heft in a film which encourages you to laugh at someone's death, while at the same time squirming with the realisation of what you are doing - which is why our laughter was also punctuated by winces.

And meanwhile the film is packed full of utterly brilliant character observations - like the over-thinking perpetual student, the lady at the retirement home who is more worried about what she's going to do with an unwanted giant marzipan cake than the fact that one of her charges has gone missing, the police inspector who pursues both Allan and the criminal gang as half-arsedly as he possibly can without actually losing his job, or the rejected ex-boyfriend who wants to pull angrily away from his girlfriend's house with tyres screaming, but has got himself into a position where he has to shunt the car around about 5 times before he can leave, with everybody watching him and giving advice as he knocks things over at every turn. Also, how often do you get to see a bunch of people going on the run with an elephant?

In short, watch this film if you get the chance, but be prepared for a few winces along the way.

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Comments

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
matgb
Jul. 26th, 2014 03:39 pm (UTC)
and presumably sub-titled for Swedish audiences.

Maybe. I've never met a Swede who didn't speak as good English as me, including when travelling overseas, it seems to be a presumed part of the curriculum and has been for decades, I know EFL chains that used to rely on the Swedish and German markets were really struggling when I left the industry.

Sounds like a fun film, I need to start paying more attention to what's on in various local places.
strange_complex
Jul. 26th, 2014 03:49 pm (UTC)
Not sure - I think if I were marketing the film, I'd want to make sure it had subtitles just in case, rather than risk some members of the audience not being able to follow all of the dialogue properly. But you might be right, and I certainly agree that most Swedes seem to be excellent English speakers.

As for paying attention, I'm rubbish at that myself! I just basically have a policy of saying 'yes' as often as I can when ms_siobhan and planet_andy ask me to come to the cinema with them, as they usually pick things I'm likely to enjoy.
ms_siobhan
Jul. 26th, 2014 04:04 pm (UTC)
It was a top choice of Mr Pops :-)

I loved the perpetual student chap wearing a circus outfit, the elephant related death, the fact than Gunilla was in no way a victim and a really strong character and Allan's lovely use of cameras.
strange_complex
Jul. 26th, 2014 04:14 pm (UTC)
Oh yes, I'd forgotten about Allan snapping his way through all his meetings with top political figures! Gunilla was amazeballs.
minnesattva
Jul. 27th, 2014 03:22 am (UTC)
This sounds like fun, I'd have loved to see it. If only the free time I get with being unemployed also came with more money to do things like get the train to Bradford. :)
strange_complex
Jul. 27th, 2014 09:58 am (UTC)
Bah, yes - that seems very unfair. :-( I hope some new prospects present themselves soon on the job front.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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