The 3 Rooms of Melancholia

Director: Pirjo Honkasalo
Screenwriters: Pirjo Honkasalo

Institute History

  • 2005 Sundance Film Festival


Hauntingly poetic, visionary, and quietly devastating, Pirjo Honkasalo's portrait of children in war carries the mournful echo of a gull's cry in a cathedral. Made through various methods of subterfuge (foreigners having been forbidden by Russian authorities from entering Chechnya), Honkasalo's extraordinary film portrays children who are as emotionally ravaged as their homelands have been scorched.

The artistic genius of The 3 Rooms of Melancholia begins with its division into three "rooms"—"longing," "breathing," and "remembering"—but its overriding theme is the visiting upon children of an adult-born hatred and division that they cannot possibly process, which manifests itself in these children through anger, fear, violence, and pervasive sadness.

The protagonists central to this story are the 9- to 14-year-old boys at the Kronstadt Cadet Academy; Hadizhat Gataeva, a woman who salvages children from the ruins of Chechnya; and the children living across the border in the Ingushetia refugee camp. But the principal subject of the film is the seemingly never-ending Chechen war, from which irrationality and venom poisons a generation too young to recognize its fallacies.

— Diane Weyermann

Screening Details


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