The Cuckoo

If the first 40 minutes of Russian director Alexander Rogozhkin's anti-war fable weren't so good, you might not notice how unremarkable the rest of it is. The year is 1944, the place the frozen northern reaches of WWII's Eastern Front, close to the Finnish-Soviet border. Finland, an ally of Nazi Germany, is about to pull out of the war, but Finnish troops...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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If the first 40 minutes of Russian director Alexander Rogozhkin's anti-war fable weren't so good, you might not notice how unremarkable the rest of it is. The year is 1944, the place the frozen northern reaches of WWII's Eastern Front, close to the Finnish-Soviet border. Finland, an ally of Nazi Germany, is about to pull out of the war, but Finnish troops are still actively punishing conscripts they feel are insufficiently patriotic. Condemned to die by his fellow soldiers, young sniper Veiko (Ville Haapasalo) is dressed in the uniform of Germany's Army Group North and left chained to an enormous boulder in the snowy Lapland wilderness, directly in the path of the advancing Soviet Army. It's only a matter of time before Veiko is discovered, mistaken for a German soldier and shot on sight. But Veiko, who was attending university when he was reluctantly drafted, is far too resourceful to sit passively and await his fate: With little more at his disposal than his eyeglasses, a bit of pine sap and some dry brush, he escapes. Dragging the chain behind him, Veiko makes his way through the surrounding forest and stumbles across a small farm where Anni (Anni-Kristiina Juuso), a young Sami wife who hasn't seen her husband since he was recruited by the army four years earlier, is nursing another fugitive: Ivan (Viktor Bychkov), a Russian officer accused of anti-Soviet activities but saved from court-martial when his military escort died in an air attack. Communication among the three is virtually impossible — Anni knows only her native language, Ivan speaks Russian and Veiko, Finnish — but that doesn't stop anyone speaking his or her mind. Veiko, who's gained a new respect for life after escaping apparently certain death, is tired of fighting; Ivan, older and far less optimistic, is tired of life. Anni, who's been alone for the past four years, just wants to gather enough provisions to make it through the hard winter ahead — and feed her earthier appetites. What begins as a gripping adventure, thrillingly told with virtually no dialogue, eventually becomes a rather routine parable despite the unique setting and circumstances. Anni, however, deserves a whole movie of her own. Sardonic and sexually forthright, she's a fascinating creature. (In Russian, Finnish and Sami, with English subtitles.)

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  • Released: 2002
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Review: If the first 40 minutes of Russian director Alexander Rogozhkin's anti-war fable weren't so good, you might not notice how unremarkable the rest of it is. The year is 1944, the place the frozen northern reaches of WWII's Eastern Front, close to the Finnish… (more)

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