The beauty of this movie is that you, as the reader of the subtitles, are the only one who knows what is going on. The woman and the two men all speak different languages. It is a comedy of errors up until the end.
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September of 1944, a few days before Finland went out of the Second World War. A chained to a rock Finnish sniper-kamikadze Veikko managed to set himself free. Ivan, a captain of the Soviet Army, arrested by the Front Secret Police 'Smersh', has a narrow escape. They are soldiers of the two enemy armies. A Lapp woman Anni gives a shelter to both of them at her farm. For Anni they are not enemies, but just men.Written by
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Anni-Kristiina Juuso never saw the complete script for this film, she only got her lines in Finnish, which she then translated into Sámi. See more »
At the beginning of the film, the Russian jeep with Ivan as a prisoner on it is seen moving on a straight road and at low speed. However, the driver of the jeep makes abrupt steering movements which is incoherent with the path of the jeep shown. See more »
Surviving, Living and Even Loving Without a Shared Language
A perennial subcategory of war films is the small-cast story of two enemies who encounter each other when isolated from their respective units and become mutually dependent. Hatred should be but isn't always subsumed to a common quest for survival. In 2001, "No Man's Land" showed the excruciatingly painful relationship of two adversaries trapped between lines during the Bosnia/Herzogovenia debacle. There was little humor in that film.
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.
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