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2 reviews, 5 user ratings

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Cuckoo, The
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by Brian McKay

"One woman, two men, no common language -- could be trouble."
3 stars

Billed as an anti-war statement, THE CUCKOO puts forth the premise of two enemy soldiers (one wounded, one escaped) who must live under the same roof with a woman who hasn't had a man in a very long time. None of them speak the same language, and the result is a mix of sexual tension and potentially fatal misunderstandings.

The film opens near the end of World War II with Veikko (Ville Haapasalo), a Finnish sniper formerly on the side of the German army who is left behind by his squad with his ankle chained to a rock. This is apparently the punishment decreed by his commanding officer, although what offense he's committed is never quite clear. He is left with a rifle, a few bullets, some food and a cannister of water. How he eventually makes his escape is a thoroughly trying but fascinating exercise in persistence -- for both the viewer and character.

Meanwhile, Russian soldier Ivan (Viktor Bychkov) is being escorted to prison for conspiring against the Russian government. Whether this charge is true or not is also left in the dark, although it's not critical knowledge. However, when his jeep is mistakenly attacked by Russian planes, he is left lying half-dead in the road (perhaps even three-quarters dead).

He is rescued by the unlikely savior of Anni (Anni-Christina Juuso), a pretty Lapp woman who wears a lot of fur and lives on a small farm and reindeer ranch. Her existence is a simple one, and she lives alone since her husband was conscripted four years earlier and never heard from again.

Not long after she takes Ivan back to her home and tends his wounds, Veikko shows up dragging a chain behind him. Once freed of that nuisance, he sticks around to become a nuisance himself to the bitter and injured Russian. The three of them begin cohabitating in a somewhat symbiotic relationship, trying to understand each other through the triple-layer language barrier. Veikko's attempts to befriend the Russian are met with animosity, while Anni's growing sexual yearnings lead to the inevitable game of eenie-meenie-minie-moe to see which one gets to give her a proper shag first. Hallelujah, it's rainin' men!

What's really enjoyable to watch in THE CUCKOO is just how well the characters are able to understand each other through guesswork and judging body language. At times one character will be able to guess what the other is saying with uncanny accuracy. However, just as often such is not the case, and a sudden move at the wrong time can spell disaster.

THE CUCKOO gives the viewer an omniscient, almost voyeuristic peek into the communication of the three characters that renders them more interesting than they would be if they all started speaking a common tongue. It also boasts some stunning cinematography and beautiful settings. If the film has a weakness, it's that it's slow. Often ponderously slow, as it chugs along with the velocity of an oil slick moving through an ice floe. Many key scenes, while important, are protracted far beyond where they need to be.

THE CUCKOO is at times a beautiful film, one that never succumbs to excessive dramatics or over-sentimentalization. There are rewards to be gleaned here, but only by the patient.

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originally posted: 07/22/03 18:39:35
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Brisbane Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Brisbane Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

11/16/06 David Excellent film about the absurdities and cruelties of war 5 stars
4/17/04 Morally Sound If you liked this, also check out No Man's Land. 5 stars
2/29/04 azflyman This film was good, enjoyable, and you must like subtitled films to enjoy. 4 stars
9/12/03 Dr Chloe E Fidel Very nice, could have used more nudity. 4 stars
7/16/03 Heather Wonderful, touching, sensitive anti-war movie 5 stars
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  11-Jul-2003 (PG-13)



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