Projections - Movie Reviews

The Cuckoo

The Cuckoo

At the start of The Cuckoo, a highly enjoyable comedy set in a distant part of Lapland near the end of World War II, an anxious young Finnish sniper, Veiko (Ville Haapasalo), looks to be a victim of a Russian attack.  His comrades have made him appear to be a Nazi and helpless, chaining him to a rock.

But, Veiko observes Ivan (Viktor Bychkov), a middle-aged Russian captain and POW, through the scope on his riffle, during his survival of the ordeal.  An explosion from an inadvertent Russian bombing of a military vehicle has killed the Finnish troops holding him captive, leaving Ivan critically wounded.

This thoughtful anti-war tale may remind some of Grand Illusion in how it mimes emotion and humor during bleak times.

Perhaps the key character is a widowed Lapp reindeer farmer, Anni, acted with much depth by Anni-Kristinna Juuso.  Juuso is actually a reindeer herder and writer-director Alexander Rogozhkin provides her the setting and comfort to inject much personality into a subtitled film that works quite well off of misunderstandings stemming from language barriers.

Anni knows the rugged conditions that these two men are enduring, though one of them happens to consider the other the enemy based on his uniform.  Russian, Lapp, and Finnish are all spoken as Anni turns out to be what the doctor ordered for Ivan and Veiko, in tending to them at her isolated farm.

That Ivan becomes more hostile gives Veiko's attraction to Anni comes as no surprise, but The Cuckoo has a quicksilver quality to it like Juuso's charming performance.  There's an understanding of the tangled nature of three people who can't understand each other's language.  Rogozhkin finds harmony in it all, as the title turns out to have a dual meaning, not just a Finnish nickname for someone who's AWOL.  And the last act uses Lapp mores to its advantage as the tone is filled with bracing humanity, while not losing sight of the shackles that come with war.

The Cuckoo