Starring Robert Gustafsson. Rating unavailable. In English, Swedish, Spanish, French, and Russian, with English subtitles.
The title character of this long-titled movie—who really does do all that—touches on highlights of the last hundred years. Of course, you don’t have to have much grasp of history to enjoy the chronological leaps taken in the life of one Allan Karlsson, played from the age of 20 to you-guessed-it by the terrifically protean Robert Gustafsson.
Things begin when Allan, who has a lifelong taste for blowing stuff up, gets himself shipped to an old folks’ home. He’s not there long enough to enjoy the candle-swamped marzipan cake they get for him. Instead, he heads off into the unknown, almost penniless, but with a knack for running into both big trouble and excellent luck at just about every turn. It would be churlish to say more than that his travels involve a skinhead-biker gang chasing a purloined suitcase, a clueless police detective, a perennially indecisive grad student with a getaway car, and the oversize remnants of a travelling circus.
It’s also worth mentioning that, in the flashback sections, he spends quality time with Stalin, Franco, Truman, and Robert Oppenheimer, who likewise favoured big bangs, but who had more second thoughts than our hero ever bothered with. Allan’s peripatetic, if introspection-free, journeys have inspired comparisons with the simple hero of Forrest Gump, but a more fitting precedent is the guy from Zelig, who managed to be near the centre of everything without attracting much attention to himself.
Already the most successful Swedish production of all time, the film is a breakthrough for actor turned director Felix Herngren, who cast many of his Scandi-TV colleagues in this can’t-miss tale, based on Jonas Jonasson’s book—a virtual Boy Scout survival manual of nursing homes throughout Europe and North America. If that makes it sound like this multilanguage movie is a sop to the old folks, and therefore something foggy and sentimental, then you’re getting the wrong idea. It forgives the bad guys for their foibles and lets some people get away with murder, but the view from this Window makes it clear that nobody lives forever.