The Cuckoo (Russian/Finnish/Sami)

“The Cuckoo” is told in three languages, and I don’t speak any of them. The film has subtitles, fortunately, making me luckier than the three characters in it, who don’t understand each other but keep talking anyway.

This light, mildly absurd comedy/drama is set near the end of World War II, opening with a Finnish soldier named Veikko (Ville Haapasalo) being chained to a rock and left to die. It is his punishment for making too much noise, thus reducing his effectiveness as a sniper. They have put him in a German uniform, too, so no one will want to help him.

He helps himself out of his predicament, MacGyver-style, and is soon in the company of a Lapp woman, Anni (Anni-Christina Juuso), whose husband died in the war and now lives alone in a hut. But Anni already has company: She has saved a Russian soldier (Viktor Bychkov) from death and is nursing him back to health. The Russian thinks the Finn is a German, and the Finn, unable to speak Russian, wouldn’t be able to convince him otherwise even if he knew that’s what the Russian thought. The Lapp, meanwhile, has her own ideas about what’s going on, and has no idea she’s wrong.

So begins this little comedy of errors, this trifling treat that neither amounts to nor aspires to anything substantial. It is, perhaps, a slight comment on war, and how it being a small world after all makes war look silly. But I gather writer/director Aleksandr Rogozhkin’s interest is in delivering simple, occasionally bawdy yuks rather than philosophizing about war. Which is fine with me; I’ve seen enough movies that philosophize about war, and too few that have Russian soldiers wearing Lapp women’s skirts.

The lonesome, beautiful Lapp landscapes are photographed nicely by Andrei Zhegalov, and director Rogozhkin handles the many long stretches of silence with confidence, never allowing silence to equal a lack of story.

It gets weirdly metaphysical near the end, but comes back down to earth in time for a sweet finale. Rarely have three characters understood each other so little yet communicated so much. It’s a pleasant, smiling film.

B (1 hr., 39 min.; in Russian, Finnish and Sami with subtitles; PG-13, some sexuality, brief nudity, a little violence.)