The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared


Approximately 30% of all books released over the last two years have over long titles about a person who has a characteristic and does a thing.* The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson was one of the early ones. Released in 2009, it was Sweden’s bestselling book in 2010 and was translated into English in 2012. The film adaptation, which does not yet have a confirmed UK release date came out in Sweden late last year, and is even more charming than the tweeness of its title would suggest.

We meet the eponymous Allan Karlsson (Robert Gustafsson) at a key moment in his life. His cat Molotov has been killed by a fox and he is intent on revenge. He’s successful in his attempt, but less successful in that it lands him in a retirement home, where, on the occasion of his 100th birthday, he is the star resident.

As a party is readied for him, Allan, as you might have predicted, climbs out the window. And disappears. Or rather, he heads to the bus stop and buys a ticket to anywhere. Along the way he picks up a suitcase that happens to be full of money and is supposed to be en route to a very angry man. As Allen toddles off on his adventure, he relives some key moments in his life, mainly the best things he ever blew up, and the best times he ever got drunk.

But there are people coming after him, and they are not a happy pack of gangsters.

The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared is a beautiful looking film; from the bundles of dynamite to the to the colourfully decorated, elephant carrying circus van, the design is flawless. Director Felix Herngren doesn’t make the mistake of going lavish, however, everything is understated, letting the absurdism of the story hold its own.

It’s a wise move, and let’s all take this opportunity to hope and pray that Tim Burton doesn’t direct the English language remake.

It’s a story made of many parts. There’s present day Allan and the trio of loners he picks up along the way. There’s the series of highly emotional gangsters who are running after him, and the man on the other end of their phone with his pool and his ladies and his unstoppable rage. There’s the police detective on a bizarre hunt for a missing hundred-year-old, a hundred-year-old who up and climbed out the window. And disappeared. And there’s past Allan, wandering through revolutions and wars and meeting up with an unlikely collection of world leaders.

Through all the gentle anarchy though, it’s Gustafsson as Allan that holds it all together. The simple straight-forward nature of the character – a man who doesn’t think too much because, according to his mother, thinking is what got his father killed – seems natural, and makes the ridiculous series of events seem natural too. With a hurrumph of bemusement, he takes us through it all.

The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared could have done better, however, to keep things just one shade simpler. We don’t really need that much of Allan’s past. It’s that aspect of the story that is the least believable, and unfortunately it’s one of the less enjoyable as well. And present day Allan is having such adventures that it seems sad to take all that time away from him.

The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared (I just had to get it in one more time) is quite a good book and a much better movie. Genuinely funny, with a light touch on the absurd and a collection of just delightful characters. We’re still not sold on the title, though.

*Not a real statistic

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