Cuckoo, The (2003) - Synopsis

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 a 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 witnesses the following through his rifle's telescope: Ivan (Viktor Bychkov), a captain in the Russian army accused of anti-Soviet correspondence, is being held prisoner by the Soviet Military secret police. En route to his court martial, Russian planes accidentally bomb the vehicle carrying the disgraced captain, killing the driver and his guard.

Not far away 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 locates the bodies of Ivan and his captors while foraging for food. As she begins to bury the dead, Anni discovers that Ivan is still alive, but seriously hurt. She carries him to her wooden hut and nurses him back to health.

Meanwhile, Veiko, in search of tools to remove his shackles, stumbles upon Anni's farm. Thus World War II creates the unlikeliest of bonds (between three different people, from three different cultures, speaking three different languages. ) Comic, and sometimes tragic, misunderstandings soon arise, resulting in a passionate, and very human, three-way relationship.

Unable to communicate with the others and unaware that the war between the USSR and Finland is over, Ivan is convinced that Veiko is a German soldier gone astray; to Ivan, the German uniform the Finnish soldier was forced to wear is further proof. But Veiko is unaware of Ivan's hatred and just wants to cut off his shackles, return home and put the war behind him. Yet, to avoid falling into enemy hands, Veiko opts to stay on Anni's farm for temporary safety.

The earthy and sensuous Anni, who has not been with a man in four years, could not be more delighted with her good fortune, language barrier be damned. For Anni, Veiko and Ivan are not enemies, but just men.

An uncommon and touching bond develops, as the three unlikely souls begin a domestic routine of hunting and gathering in preparation for the long Lap winter.

The two men do what they can to contribute to Anni's well being: Veiko builds a sauna and Ivan picks mushrooms….

Veiko, Ivan and Anni communicate only in gesture. Starved for love and physical touch, Anni seduces young, strapping Veiko, much to the chagrin of jealous middle-aged Ivan.

Then a plane crashes in the forest near Anni's hut, spilling leaflets indicating Finland's surrender to the Allies. Veiko thinks he can finally return home safely, but Ivan - who has not seen the leaflets - manages to rummage a pistol out of the wreckage and, still convinced that Veiko is a Fascist, shoots him. When he soon realizes that the war is over, Ivan is torn with remorse.

The nurturing Anni brings Veiko back to life through a series of ancient Lapp rituals. With Veiko bedridden, Anni's needs for companionship and sexual longing draw Ivan into her bed. Gradually, Ivan and Veiko, no longer separated by ethnic hate nor rivalry for the affections of Anni, become friends. As winter arrives and the two men head back to their respective homes in opposite directions, Anni is left behind with memories - and much more - of her two unlikely comrades in war and peace.

Sony Pictures Classics