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Film / Kukushka

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Kukushka (Cuckoo) is set in September of 1944, a few days before Finland pulled out of the Second World War, featuring three main characters and a very unusual twist on a trope.

The paths of a runaway Finnish sniper (Veikko) and a condemned Soviet captain (Ivan) accidentally converge at the farm of a Sámi woman (Anni). None of the three speaks the others' languages (Finnish, Saami and Russian), and the men are hostile toward each other. To the woman, however, they are not enemies - just men.


This movie provides examples of:

  • Actual Pacifist: Veikko. It's not that he won't defend himself (he's pretty good at it), but he really doesn't want to fight or harm anyone.
  • Aggressive Categorism: Ivan's bread and butter, even when it makes no sense whatsoever and is actively counter-productive in the situation he's in. He keeps dismissing Veikko and his attempts to communicate, never stops calling him "Fritz" and keeps taking him for a fascist, even if the Finn makes it crystal clear (and despite the monumental Language Barrier between them) he's neither.
  • All Germans Are Nazis: The setting being WW2 and Ivan being a Soviet soldier, the attitude is expected. Problem is, Veikko isn't even German to begin with.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Splats into the Language Barrier, but still:
    Veikko: (to Ivan, after being attacked, yet again, for no reason) How can I explain anything to you if you don't want to understand?
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  • Bedouin Rescue Service: Anni, upon realising Ivan is still alive, drags him all the way to her hut.
  • Bilingual Dialogue: For almost the entire duration of the movie; it's worth watching for this alone, as it's done very well.
  • Brick Joke: Since Ivan never explained his name to her, Anni ultimately named one of the boys "Psholty".
  • Chained to a Rock: As a punishment for insubordination, the retreating Germans chain Veikko to a rock in a highly visible spot. He's given a sniper rifle to defend himself, but they clearly expect him to die and draw the attention of the Soviets on their backs. Later he compares himself to Prometheus.
  • Death Seeker: Ivan is a melancholic who's spent the last couple of years fighting a war and has nothing and no one to live for. Therefore, he would be glad to have someone just cut his suffering short.
  • Dirty Coward: The young lieutenant instantly ducks when two planes fly over him. Planes that are on his side.
  • Double Meaning: The title refers both to Veikko (a sniper firing from a vintage point) and Anni (her real given name).
  • Due to the Dead: After finding a crashed Soviet jeep, Anni closes the dead driver's eyes and proceeds to bury the casualties - after collecting them into a single pile first.
  • Eating the Eye Candy: Anni convinces Veikko to give her his clothes for cleaning. But her real goal is to get him undressed and check him out.
  • Enemy Mine: Both Veikko and Ivan eventually adopt this attitude towards each other, while living with Anni, to make life more bearable for the three of them.
  • Ensign Newbie: The Soviet political officer has been on duty for a week. He's absolutely green in all things military and quick to panic, but still acts smug around Ivan.
  • Entertainingly Wrong: For just one example, when Anni tells her sons about their fathers she doesn't know that Ivan was the one who shot Veikko.
  • Everyone Can See It: While Anni is very open about her sexual needs, not even requiring words, and Ivan can tell it a mile away, Veikko remains oblivious until he's nearly dragged into her bed.
  • Friend or Foe: The Soviet pilots take the jeep below for an enemy, open fire and bomb the hell out of it, killing the driver and the lieutenant while dazzling Ivan.
  • Fun with Foreign Languages
    • Early on, Veikko asks Ivan about his name. The Russian, viewing him as an enemy, answers "Пошëл ты" (Poshyol ty - "Get lost"). The Finn takes on calling him Psholti (sometomes subtitled as "Gerlost"). Ivan doesn't reveal his name until they part ways and even then Veikko jokingly calls him "Psholti Ivan".
  • Guile Hero: After being chained to the rock, Veikko needs about five seconds to figure out how to free himself using nothing but the supplies at hand. Throughout the story, he remains the more sensible of the male duo.
  • Gilligan Cut: Veikko reassures the German and Finnish soldiers it would be dishonourable to shoot them In the Back, but the very first thing he does is to grab his rifle, reassemble it and aim at them. Luckily for everyone, they've managed to hide by then.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Ivan gets jealous about the attention Anni's giving Veikko. They even have a "conversation" about it.
  • Hiding Behind the Language Barrier: Eventually Anni calls Veikko ugly, smiling all the while and secure in her knowledge that he'll take it for a praise.
  • I Have Many Names: Her husband called her Anni (suggesting he might not be a Saami), people call her Laame, but her parents named her Cuckoo.
  • I Know Your True Name: When introductions are made, Anni invokes this trope.
  • The Immodest Orgasm: To the point Anni warns guys beforehand that she's loud like an animal, for what good it does.
  • Innocent Fanservice Girl: Anni has no problem whatsoever with nudity, being a highly practical Saami and all that.
  • Irony: Anni is horny due to not having had a man for 4 years... and when she starts getting pushy towards Veikko, he ignores her, while mentioning he hadn't been with anyone for 2 months, so she shouldn't be tempting him.
  • Language Barrier: Veikko is a Finn. Ivan is a Russian. Anni is a Saami. None of them speaks a word of the others' languages. Ironically, Veikko does speak two foreign languages (German and Swedish) that are no good in his situation, as the entirety of Ivan's German is "stop, hands up, please (for) a cigarette".
  • Locked in a Room: Without meaningful conversation!
  • Locking MacGyver in the Store Cupboard: Veikko is given a rifle, a couple of bullets, a water canister, a tin opener and his glasses. Just enough to free himself from being Chained to a Rock.
  • Lost in Translation: Cuckoo is a Russian slang term for a sniper. Since it's the Arc Word of the story, some of the translations lose an important part of the meaning in translating it straight as "sniper" (e.g. the official English subtitles).
  • MacGyvering: Using a tiny bonfire (started with a magnifying glass made out of his Purely Aesthetic Glasses, tree sap and water) and his water supply, Veikko keeps cracking chunks of the rock around his chain, by heating the stone and then cooling it. Then he uses his ammo reserve to finish the job and some good old-fashioned bashing to get the wedge out. Notably, this is all he does to free himself - he gets to work with a fully formed plan.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Anni's ritual to bring Veikko back from The Underworld. The film keeps changing perspective between the events in her hut and what Veikko is experiencing, but his vision can be also interpreted as Dying Dream or even a simple coma.
  • Miles Gloriosus: Ivan brags about his poetry and his fighting prowess. While we never get to see his creative side (The Political Officer considered it utter trash, which doesn't necessarily mean anything), when he tries to fight Veikko, he's repeatedly beaten back without any effort.
  • Mock Meal: Anni literally adds sawdust to flour because of shortages, but explains that, when you disregard the taste, it's not that bad. Thankfully, nobody can understand what she's saying nor realises why she's sawing off pieces of a log.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Once Ivan realises the cease-fire has been signed - meaning he just shot Veikko for no reason.
  • Narrator All Along: At least part of the story is Anni telling her sons how she met their fathers.
  • National Stereotypes: Russians, about themselves. For the most part Ivan is a toxic asshole, who despite being saved, well-treated by the others and never attacked in any way, keeps antagonising everyone around him for no real reason. Best exemplified in the (in)famous introduction scene. The director himself noted Russia is probably the only country where you could get a reaction like that when a friendly person asks for your name.
    Veikko: (pointing at himself) Veikko. (Points at Ivan, asks in Finnish) You?
    Ivan: (in Russian) Get lost.
  • Never Trust a Title: Partially Lost in Translation for people unfamiliar with Russian. Kukushka (or cockoo) refers to a sniper on a vintage point. So the film opens with a Finnish sniper, Chained to a Rock. And that's about where the sniper reference or importance for the story ends.
  • Noodle Incident: We never learn exactly what either of the men did to end up in trouble in their respective militaries, aside that they both said something out loud that they shouldn't have.
  • The Political Officer: The lieutenant in the opening, seen right in the middle of sending Ivan to be court-martialled.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Narrowly averted. Since Ivan does his very best to not communicate with Veikko, he eventually shoots him just as Veikko is about to give him a note saying Finland signed a cease-fire.
  • Psychopomp: The fair-haired boy in white. Veikko, not understanding what's going on, follows him until Anni really starts to get desperate with her ritual. Notably, the boy doesn't force Veikko into anything and only ever tries to get the Finn back on track once.
  • Purely Aesthetic Glasses: When he enrolled to a university in Stockholm, Veikko started wearing a pair to look smarter and get less crap for being a Finn. They end up saving his life, which he loudly "discusses" later.
  • Right Through the Wall: Happens twice, no less.
  • Robbing the Dead: After a quick examination, Ivan decides The Political Officer who's been escorting him has better boots, so he "trades" with him.
  • Sacred Hospitality: The reason why Anni even bothered to help both men, despite being short-strung for food herself. She doesn't even question her actions or complains about it, just informs them she can't give them more to eat.
  • Scenery Porn: All those long, lingering shots of the Petsamo region.
  • Seen It All: Anni remains absolutely unfazed by anything, be it war, strangers, dead bodies, inability to communicate, biological needs - really, anything.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Whatever happend to Ivan prior, it made him completely indifferent about his own life and deeply melancholic.
  • Shoot Out the Lock: Defied. When trying to shoot the chain off, all Veikko achieves is tiny bits of cracked stone hitting his ankle.
  • Spell My Name with an S: It's spelled as An-n-ni, despite only having two "n" in its written form.
  • Toilet Humour: There is no toilet. Anni and Veikko take turns exchanging remarks about Ivan being in the wrong spot, while he's burning red with shame about others watching him, but the laxative he was given makes him unable to move away.
  • The Underworld: Saami version of it is presented: a weird place with barren hills, where sounds are disorted and wind never blows.
  • Weapon for Intimidation: Since Veikko used all his ammunition up to free himself, his rifle is now empty. Also, he's an Actual Pacifist. Ivan doesn't know about the first and can't understand the second.
  • Women Are Wiser: The two men keep getting into fights (which Anni has to break), are incapable of fending for themselves in the wilderness (so Anni has to care for them), and generally just eat too much and talk too loud (so she has to feed them extra and endure the noise).
  • You Need to Get Laid: Rather I Need to Get Laid - after four years away from her husband, Anni is starved for sex and quite unsubtle about it.