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Published August 19th 2014
Meet Allan Karlsson: Sweden's most famous centenarian
Internationally acclaimed novel The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared was Swedish author Jonas Jonasson's debut novel. First published in Sweden in 2009 and released internationally in 2012 - it's little wonder it was quickly adapted for the big screen by Swedish director/screenwriter Felix Herngren.
Best described as a comedy road trip movie, The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared is in Swedish language with English narration and subtitles. Rated M (there's quite a bit of violence and swearing), run time is an enjoyable 114 minutes.
Allan Karlsson (Robert Gustafsson) is the 100-Year-Old Man and he takes issue with celebrating his 100th birthday and living out the rest of his days in Malmköping's retirement home. After all, it was only a short time ago he parted ways with his beloved cat Molotov (no thanks to a wily fox which the audience soon witnesses the sudden and violent demise of as Allan avenges Molotov's death, blowing the fox to smithereens and promptly landing Allan in the retirement home).
The action starts quickly, with Allan sitting in his room, pondering his 100th year - while the retirement home's staff lose count of the candles going on his cake. Allan looks out the window and observes a young boy gleefully setting off firecrackers in the neighbouring cemetery. This is where the audience become privy to Allan's great love and achievement in life: explosives!
So out the window Allan climbs and promptly wanders on his merry way, stopping into the tourist centre to buy a ticket 'to anywhere' (in this case Byringe - 'where there's nothing to see and nothing to do'). Whilst waiting for the bus to Byringe, Allan ends up in possession of a suitcase full of money and on the start to a new adventure. On Allan's trail is the somewhat bewildered Chief Inspector Aronsson and worse still, a violent bikie gang. The bikies were originally in possession of the suitcase and commissioned by Bali-based crime lord Pim to get it to him.
Despite being orphaned at a young age, raising himself, with little formal education and spending the majority of his youth in psychiatric care, then undergoing a vasectomy prior to release, Allan lives his life by his mother's motto "things are what they are and whatever will be, will be". Being so accepting of circumstance seems to have enabled Allan to assimilate anywhere and to many situations (mostly involving bombs, explosives and political leaders).
Aiding and abetting Allan in his 100th year is retired Byringe station master Julius, academic Benny, plucky Gunilla and her elephant Sonja who all come together more as a result of circumstance than for any other reason.
Although I enjoyed Robert Gustafsson's performance in the lead role of Allan, the character I found myself most drawn to was that of Julius (Iwar Wiklander). Wiklander is utterly convincing and enchanting as the young-at-heart and independent Julius who is all too keen to join Allan in an adventure, proving adept in the variety of methods in which a dead body (or two) can be disposed.
The audience remained constantly engaged, as Allan's life periodically transitioned from present to past - reliving Allan's penchant for explosives and his associations with the likes of Harry S Truman, Robert Oppenheimer, Joseph Stalin, Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev.
Although, some of the Swedish humour was 'lost in translation', we enjoyed the screen adaptation of The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared. If you are yet to read the novel, I recommend seeing the movie the first, then further enhancing your experience by reading the novel after - as it's in author Jonas Jonasson's creative and comedic writing where you'll best understand and appreciate the humour, with the benefit of remaining constantly amused and entertained.
891 ABC Adelaide Book Club is featuring the novel as part of its September book club review - from 2.30pm on 5 September 2014 (hosted by 891 ABC Adelaide Afternoons Sonya Feldhoff and Adelaide Writers' Week Director Laura Kroetsch).