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Cuckoo, The

Director: Alexander Rogozhkin

Russia| 2002. English subtitles. Colour. Dolby digital stereo. 99 mins.


The premise of the film-a Russian, a Finn and a Lapp who can’t understand each other are thrown together in a tiny backwoods hut-sounds like the beginning of a good joke, and Alexander Rogozhkin’s The Cuckoo is just that: charming, smart and funny. It is also an anti-war statement that ignores the epic heroism of the Red army in WWII to condemn all war. The story opens on a band of German soldiers intent on chaining a Finnish army private, Veiko (Ville Haapasalo), to a rock in the middle of a forest clearing. Dressed in his SS uniform, he is bound to attract the attention of a Russian sniper who will finish him off.
But Veiko is a resourceful lad and, knowing the war is almost over (it’s September 1944), is determined to survive. He escapes from the rock with an ingenious stratagem and stumbles upon the house of a young Lapp peasant woman, Anni (Anni-Kristiina Juuso). She is already tending to a middle-aged Russian soldier (Viktor Bychkov) with a bad concussion. Although the trio don’t speak a word of each other’s language, their attitudes speak for them. Ivan is a foolish idealist who refuses to regard the nice young Veiko as anything but a fascist. The Finn, a college student, tries to explain-by citing Tolstoy’s War and Peace, Dostoevsky’s The Idiot and even Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms-that for him the war is over. Down-to-earth Anni, whose husband was marched away four years ago, makes hilariously misunderstood insinuations about her desire to bed the two men.
Rogozhkin’s film has a concise, witty script, careful direction and standout performances by the three leads. Cinematographer Andrei Zhegalov expresses the heart and soul of the Lapp country in breathtaking panoramas with a mystical twinge, while Dmitri Pavlov’s sparsely used music score underlines the awe-inspiring power of nature.

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