In WWII, a Finnish sniper is left chained to a rock by German soldiers, while a captain of the Red Army, en route to his court martial, is almost blown up by Russian planes. A Lapp woman giv... Read allIn WWII, a Finnish sniper is left chained to a rock by German soldiers, while a captain of the Red Army, en route to his court martial, is almost blown up by Russian planes. A Lapp woman gives a shelter to both of them at her farm.In WWII, a Finnish sniper is left chained to a rock by German soldiers, while a captain of the Red Army, en route to his court martial, is almost blown up by Russian planes. A Lapp woman gives a shelter to both of them at her farm.
A surprisingly refreshing approach to the forced relationship between enemy soldiers comes to the screen in director Alexsandr Rogozhkin's "Kukushka" ("Cuckoo"). This fine Russian film is some welcome evidence of a resurgence in that country's filmmaking industry (with regard to quality). And it hasn't come too soon.
A Finnish soldier, Veikko, is chained by his unit to a boulder and left with a sniper rifle, food, water, ammunition and no means of escape. No reason is given for this unusual assignment which he resents, viewing it as rather suicidal. At that time in World War II Finland was an ally of Germany and the Finns were holding down considerable Soviet forces in their native land. Veikko wears a German uniform decorated with the twin lightning bolts of the SS. Through imaginative use of available resources Veikko is able to extricate himself.
Meanwhile, back at the Russian front, Ivan, a captain, sets off under guard with a driver and his unit's political officer for an investigation into his alleged anti-Soviet notes. Such investigations ended, in those days, with either execution or assignment to a "trampler" battalion (unarmed men sent ahead of an assault to set off mines and attract fire. They were not insurable.). Ivan knows what's to happen to him but luckily friendly fire from Russian aircraft kills the driver and commissar-type while leaving Ivan seriously wounded.
Enter Anni, a Laplander swathed in bulky clothes reflecting no hint of sexuality. She rescues the unconscious Ivan and takes him to her pad. This is pre-Nokia Finland at its indigenous best. As she takes care of the wounded officer the Finn shows up.
There are three languages in this movie: Russian, Finnish and the Lap dialect. The characters can't communciate verbally but they talk constantly, no meaning perceivable through the spoken word. Veikko, formerly a student, is predictably, stereotypically, disgusted with war. Ivan snarls with hatred for Germans and their allies, a very realistic portrayal.
Much of what goes on among the three is comic, especially when Anni, not having seen or heard from her husband in four years (and unlikely ever to again), expresses her now unbounded randiness first in words and then... In the process she starts looking less like a Laplander on a subsistence existence and more like a gal likely to be distracted by a call on her cell phone.
The evolving relationship of the three is realistic although the young Finn is allowed to mouth one too many anti-war sentiments for my taste. This is a story about a bizarre chance encounter, not "All Quiet on the Finnish Front."
Rogozhkin's direction is original but he owes, for one scene, some debt, I believe, to Ingmar Bergman. See the film and you'll figure out which one I'm talking about.
"Cuckoo" benefits enormously from the absence of music. The subtitles convey the dialogue but hearing the three languages without an overlay of music makes the story far more powerful.
The scenery is magnificent.
The ending is unsurprising but nonetheless affecting.
- Jul 20, 2003