3 Rooms of Melancholia 

Directed by Pirjo Honkasalo

The two poles of documentary filmmaking: directorial assertion/presence on one end, directorial self-effacement on the other. Finnish filmmaker Pirjo Honkasalo goes to the latter extreme in The 3 Rooms of Melancholia, a brave, verité examination of another “War on Terror” happening in another nation. Viewing the effects of the Russia-Chechen conflict from the perspective of young children, Honkasalo has found powerful images in the three related areas, or “rooms,” of her film: the harsh regimentation of a military academy for youth (many from broken homes) on an isolated Russian island; a woman rescuing three siblings from the ravages of war-torn Grozny while also separating them from their ailing mother; the rites of Chechen refugees in neighboring Ingush. With a minimum of dialogue and voice-over, and long, mournful takes of landscapes and faces, 3

Rooms is nothing short of a lyrical masterpiece. While a modicum more of historical, cultural, and geographical information could have been provided without lessening the film’s apocalyptic visual sense, Honkasalo has created a rare achievement among the current crop of political documentaries: bearing witness without didacticism, detaching from the scene without coldness. Opens

July 27 at Film Forum

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