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THE CUCKOO aka KUKUSHKA
USA: Sony Pictures Classics
UK: Soda Pictures
Cast: Anni-Christina Juuso, Ville Haapasalo, Viktor Bychkov, Aleksei Kashnikov, Mikhail Korobochkin
Director: Aleksandr Rogozhkin
Languages: Finnish / Russian / Saami (English subtitles)
USA: 99 mins
UK: 103 mins
USA Rated: PG-13 for sexual content and violence
UK Certificate: 12A contains some mild violence and sex references
USA Release Date: 11 July 2003 (Limited Release - Los Angeles and New York)
UK Release Date: 28 November 2003 (Limited Release)
September 1944. Several days before Finland, an ally of Nazi Germany, pulls out of World War II, Veiko (Ville Haapasalo), a lone Finnish sniper, is turned on by his compatriots for being a pacifist and, in their eyes, a reluctant fighter, As a punishment, the young man is placed in shackles, nailed to a heavy rock and forced to wear a German uniform, knowing full well that Russian soldiers have orders to shoot Germans on sight, without accepting surrender. Veiko is thus left to die in a remote Lapland forest, with nothing but a few supplies and his wits. Days pass, and after several failed attempts, he succeeds in freeing himself and heads for safety, shackles still attached.
While trying to escape, Veiko sees Ivan (Viktor Bychkov), a captain in the Russian army accused of anti-Soviet correspondence, being held prisoner by the Soviet Military secret police. En route to court martial, Russian planes accidentally bomb the vehicle carrying the disgraced captain, killing the driver and his guard.
Nearby is Anni (Anni-Kristiina Juuso), a Lapp reindeer farmer whose husband was drafted into the war by the Finnish authorities four years earlier, never to return. Hungry and alone, the young and resourceful widow finds the bodies of Ivan and his captors while foraging for food. Realising that Ivan is still alive but seriously hurt, she carries him back to her home and nurses him back to health. Meanwhile Veiko stubbles upon Anni's farm in search of tools to remove his shackles and decides to stay for fear of falling into enemy hands.
Thus World War II creates the unlikeliest of bonds (between three different people, from three different cultures, speaking three different languages). Unable to communicate with each other and unaware that the war between the USSR and Finland is over, Ivan is convinced that Veiko is a German soldier gone astray. Veiko is unaware of Ivan's hatred while the earthy and sensuous Anni hasn't been with a man in four years and couldn't be more delighted with her good fortune, language barrier be damned. For Anni, Veiko and Ivan are not enemies, but just men...