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The Cuckoo (Kukushka) (12A)

Review by: Graeme Kay | Rating: Two

ENCHANTING story set in the wilds of Lapland at the end of the Second World War.

As the hostilities draw to an end fighting between the Finns (allied to the Germans) and the Russians continues on the border between Finland and Lapland.

Veikko (Ville Hapfaalo), a Finnish sniper conscripted into the ranks of the SS, has been captured by the enemy and has been chained to a rock to meet a slow agonising death from starvation.

Meanwhile, Ivan (Victor Bychkov), a Russian captain, is being transported to some unspecified place to undergo a court martial.

When Victor's convoy becomes a victim of 'friendly fire' he is left for dead.

However, help is at hand in the shape of Anni, (Annie Kristiiani Juufo), a lusty young Sammi woman who comes across his all but lifeless body and drags him to the safety of her cabin, where she nurses him back to health.

In the interim, Veikko, with the help of only lichen and cold water, has ingeniously made his escape from his Promethean securement.

Eventually, he stumbles on Anni's camp and the fun and games begin as the three protagonists, none of whom speak the other's language, attempt to make the best of their situation.

Initially, there is hostility between Victor and Veikko, but with Anni's help they soon become uneasy allies in their fight for survival.

Immaculately shot, by the Russian director, Alexander Rogozhkin, to capture the breathtaking Arboreal beauty of the Lap countryside, this is an exquisitely soulful little film touched with warmth and humour that makes its serious anti-war point without being the slightest bit preachy.

If you only see one Russian film this year, make it this one. A real gem.

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