DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

THE CUCKOO (KUKUSHKA) (director/writer: Alexander Rogozhkin; cinematographer: Andrei Zhegalov; editor: Yuliya Rumyantseva; music: Dmitri Pavlov; cast: Anni-Kristiina Juuso (Anni), Ville Khaapasalo (Veiko) Viktor Bychkov (Ivan); Runtime: 99; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producer: Sergey Selyanov; Sony Pictures Classics; 2002-Russia-in Russian, Finnish, German and Sami with English subtitles)

"Rogozhkin brings a needed sense of humanity to this well-realized war film."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Cuckoo is military slang for a sniper. Russian director-writer Alexander Rogozhkin ("Chekist"/"Peculiarities of the National Fishing") sets his war drama during WWII, in September 1944, shortly before Finland withdrew from the war. A Russian, a Finn and a Lapp are stuck together in a remote farmhouse by a Finnish lake, who don't speak the same language. It plays out as a comedy of errors, how people have trouble communicating with each other and an allegory on how senseless is war.

The injured disgraced and disillusioned idealist middle-aged Russian captain, Ivan (
Viktor Bychkov), and the pacifist Finnish army private Veiko (Ville Khaapasalo), meet at the remote reindeer farm of the lonely attractive young Lapp widow Anni (Anni-Kristiina Juuso). Her soldier husband died in the war. The peasant woman treats Ivan's concussion from a bomb and comforts the Finnish private, a college student, who escaped being tied to a boulder for not fighting and was dressed in a German uniform. Because of the uniform, Ivan falsely thinks Veiko is the Cuckoo.

The three, even though not understanding each other, bond in order to get through the dark war days, as the men must alter the negative notions they hold for each other.

When Veiko quotes from
one of his literary gods, Dostoyevsky, "I hope people look back in horror at what they did in the war," we realize what the filmmaker is fully saying. Rogozhkin brings a needed sense of humanity to this well-realized war film.

REVIEWED ON 7/4/2016       GRADE: B

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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