The Cuckoo

The Cuckoo is a new Russian movie that takes a strange situation and makes it feel almost absurdist at times. Writer/director Aleksandr Rogozhkin (Boldino Fall, Checkpoint) sets his story in some forgotten corner of World War II, relatively untouched by the ravages of war. The opening finds a group of Finnish soldiers stranding Vieko (Ville Haapasalo (Gold Fever in Lappland, Peculiarities of National Fishing) by chaining him to a rock. At the same time, a group of Russian soldiers is driving Ivan (Viktor Bychkov, Amerikanka, Peculiarities of National Fishing) to his execution. Rogozhkin makes it a point to never fully explain why Vieko and Ivan's countrymen are treating them this way. Russian bombers hit the jeep Ivan is in leaving him badly injured, and Vieko, left to die on the rock, begins earnestly trying to free himself.

A Lapp woman, Anny (Anni-Christina Juuso) lives nearby, and rescues Ivan. Vieko manages to free himself, and also finds his way to Anny's ramshackle house. Now, there are three complete strangers who speak three different languages, trying to communicate with each other. Vieko wants nothing more than to go home. He is sick of war, and is more of a student than anything else. His compatriots dressed him in a German uniform so Ivan believes he is a fascist. Because they cannot understand each other, Vieko cannot convince him otherwise. Ivan would kill Vieko, but is still recovering so he is not physically capable of doing so.

Rogozhkin proceeds to take things near the absurd. Vieko sticks around despite Ivan's numerous attempts to kill them. Each person misinterprets what the others are saying, yet they still manage to co-exist relatively peacefully. As for Anny, she has not seen her husband for four years, and the sudden appearance of two men is like a godsend to her. Vieko talks incessantly because he is nervous, and just annoys Ivan more. Yet, because of the altruistic actions each of them take, they are forced to rethink their preconceived notions about each other, and live in an uneasy co-existence. Without the benefit of words, they can only rely on actions, and through these actions they begin to realize that none of them are enemies.

The Cuckoo takes place in a far off place that looks almost alien. Anny lives in an idyllic area, surrounded by forested mountains and serene water. Rogozhkin uses little music, and aside from interludes where Vieko is yammering on, there are sometimes long silences. It gives the film an otherworldly feel, and allows for the characters to focus completely on each other with no other distractions. Like No Man's Land, The Cuckoo takes a look at war on a very personal level, and shows that, in these cases, it all seems pretty pointless.

Mongoose Rates It: Not Bad.
1 hour, 40 minutes, Russian, Finnish, and Saami (that's Lapp!) with English subtitles, Rated PG-13 for sexual content and violence.

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