Cuckoo, The : Interview With Anni-Christina Juuso

This is your film debut, what did you do before?
I am a student of the Theatre Institute. And, as far as I can remember, I performed at home and matinees in the school's amateur theatre.

How did Rogozhkin choose you for the main part?
He was looking for a Sami actress specifically, and there are only a few of them. I know that Ville Haapsalo sent requests to all the countries where Lapps live. I sent my videos among the last ones and did not expect to get the part. Alexander said that he had liked my spontaneity. I even contrived to yawn a couple of times facing the camera. But I think it was the fact that my name is Anni, like my character. That was fate!

Why was a Sami actress so necessary?
Sami women are very strong. When I am asked whom of the two men my heroine chooses, I cannot find an answer. The script did not make it clear. As a matter of fact, the concrete man is not important for this woman. Sami women care about the continuation of the kin. The husband of my heroine was taken by the war, her deer flock perished, but she must live somehow. Naturally she cannot survive alone. She needs assistants.

Alexander Rogozhkin had said that the first days on the Russian set were hell for you, and that "nightmare" and "tomorrow" were your first words in Russian. Is that true?
In the beginning it was very complicated of course. I could not speak Russian. But then I began to study the ABCs, and I tried to put some words into phrases. In the end, I began to understand what was being spoken around me. There were a few English-speaking people in the film crew and I began to communicate. But otherwise, there was not a trace of discomfort. We transformed into a kind of big family. You are a modern girl and had to play a profoundly traditional character. As a matter of fact, the national traditions are deeply respected in my family. This is why the thoughts and feelings of my heroine turned out to be clear and close to me. Besides, my family maintains the way of life of the Sami. For example, I was taught to take care of deer in my childhood. But, cinema is cinema. Undoubtedly, there is space here for a director's fantasy and his personal approach towards the situation.

But it seems you helped the director with some details. For instance, the scene in which you make a cut on the deer's back and collect its blood into a cup in order to heal the weakening soldier?
That was the director's idea. He had studied the history and the way of life of my people in detail and he was the one to pay close attention to the details I would not have noticed. But naturally, sometimes I explained how some rite or tradition would look.

Do you have the shamans in your kin?
Shamans were widespread in Russia until recently, but these kinds of scenes, with spirits, are almost impossible to see in Finland currently. Those were the director's idea, too.

Were you afraid to go to Russia to film?
After I was in Russia in 1999, I said to myself, "That's it, even my leg will not be in Russia again!" But after my decision to do the film, my father brought me and Ville (Haapsalo) to the Sallu, the checkpoint on the Russian border, where the car taking us to Kandalaksha (the filming location) was waiting. At the moment when I took the seat in the Russian car, driven by the Russian driver, it was raining. My father remained in Finland and I was so sorry for myself and wanted to cry. But then I fell asleep in the car and when I woke up in Kandalaksha, there was a different life there. Papa, Finland - everything was behind. And now I can say completely and frankly that I love Russia and the Russian people.

Author : Sony Pictures Classics