The Cuckoo

The Cuckoo


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Comprehension is less important than feeling. It doesn't matter that you can't understand why a Finn, dressed in a German uniform in 1944, is being chained to a rock out in the bleak wilderness of some northern country. The soldiers who leave him there seem friendly enough. It's part of war. Things happen that in peacetime would be considered beyond reason. The question of morality remains buried, like so much else.

Not far away, an older Russian officer is being transported, obviously in disgrace, to prison, or labour camp. Fighter planes attack his vehicle and he is left for dead on the dirt road. Later, Anni, a Lapp widow, who works a reindeer farm single-handed on the shores of a lake, finds the concussed Russian and drags him back to her hovel and nurses him to health.

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After many ingenious attempts, the Finn escapes from his rock and wanders through a wasteland, carrying an empty rifle, until he reaches Anni's farm. She takes him in and feeds him and he stays. The Russian thinks he's a German and wants to kill him. No one speaks the other's language. It is, to put it mildly, a menage-a-strange.

Aleksandr Rogozhkin's film is a little gem. It contains none of the certainties, required to make a cinematic experience sweet enough for general consumption. The word that comes closest would be "humanity", encompassing confusion, inconsistency and contradiction.

Only Anni, whose life is regimented by work and the business of survival, appears rooted in reality. The men are victims of circumstance. As the Russian tells her one day, "My soul's emptied by the war. I'll go and cut wood."

Of course, she hasn't a clue what he's talking about.

Reviewed on: 18 Dec 2003
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Lapp reindeer farmer gives refuge to a wounded Russian army captain and a Finn soldier in 1944.
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Director: Aleksandr Rogozhkin

Writer: Aleksandr Rogozhkin

Starring: Anni-Christina Juuso, Ville Haapasalo, Viktor Bychkov, Aleksei Kashnikov, Mikhail Korobochkin

Year: 2002

Runtime: 99 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: Russia


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