Runtime: 106 min
Language: Russian | Arabic | Chechen With Hardcoded English Sub
Country: Germany | Denmark | Sweden | Finland
Color: Black and White | Color
IMDb Link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0424272/
Director: Pirjo Honkasalo
Pirkko Saisio ... Narrator
La guerra de Chechenia es el escenario de esta película rodada a lo largo tres años. La incapacidad de los adultos para terminar definitivamente con la guerra es la principal causa de que los niños hayan acumulado una carga de odio que –ellos así lo creen– nace desde su interior. A lo largo de sus vidas serán acompañados por una inexplicable melancolía y repentinos arrebatos de furia.
Este film, premiado en más de treinta festivales de cine de diversos países, consta de tres episodios. En el primero, “Añoranza”, unos niños rusos son entrenados como soldados dotados de una rígida disciplina; su enemigo manifiesto son los chechenios. El segundo, “Respiración”, ocurre en la desvastada ciudad de Grozny, donde una mujer que vivió en un orfanato ruso cuado tenía seis años de edad, recoge a su vez a niños sin padres. En el tercero, “Recordar”, esa misma mujer convive con su nueva familia: 63 huérfanos cuyos familiares fueron asesinados por los rusos.
I am filming Russian children on Kronstadt, an island that lies before St. Petersburg. They are being trained in the Kronstadt cadet academy as child soldiers. The imagined enemy is the Chechen. He is the foe whose utter defeat turns a soldier into a hero of the fatherland.
I am filming Chechen children in Ingushetia, in the family of Xhadizhat Gataeva, which now consists of 75 orphans for whom Xhadizhat has vowed to act as mother. She has brought them together from the ruins of a devastated Grozny. All of their parents were killed by the Russians.
Beauty and Terror Abide for People Caught in War
By STEPHEN HOLDEN
The acrid fog of war is palpable in Pirjo Honkasalo's magnificent documentary, "The 3 Rooms of Melancholia," one of the saddest films ever made. The movie, which opens today in New York, is evidence that when a director-cinematographer with a poet's vision photographs the material world, ordinary human faces and landscapes can leave impressions that transcend any words that might describe them.
As the film journeys from a boys' military school on an island outside St. Petersburg, Russia, to Grozny, the ruined capital city of Chechnya, to an orphanage just over the Chechen border in the republic of Ingushetia, a sullen mist hangs over everything. That haze becomes a profound metaphor for the unknown into which humanity anxiously peers, searching for beauty but often finding terror.
Beauty and terror are the inextricable polarities of Ms. Honkasalo's meditation on people caught up in war. Over the rolling pastoral landscape of Ingushetia, the rumble of combat just across the mountains groans in the distance like an unseen, gathering storm. At the thud of a distant explosion, a horse pricks up its ears and turns its head; inside an orphanage, a child recently rescued from Grozny hears the sounds, stares into the void and bottles up his fear. But the pictures of horses, shepherds and grazing livestock, and of children's immobile faces, also evoke the continuity of nature and the persistence of hope; life will go on.
A brooding score by the Finnish composer Sanna Salmenkallio infuses these images with an ineffable sorrow. The somber mood is echoed by the filmmaker's view of European history, expressed in the production notes. "Justice does not prevail, life does," writes Ms. Honkasalo, best known for her documentaries "The Trilogy of the Sacred and the Satanic" and "Fire-Eater." "It rises out of chaos in an ascending spiral, briefly appears to have a structure, and descends in the curve of a downward spiral toward fresh chaos."
"The 3 Rooms of Melancholia" is divided into chapters titled "Longing," "Breathing" and "Remembering." In the first, we visit a military academy in Kronstadt, an island near St. Petersburg in the Gulf of Finland, where several hundred young, mostly preadolescent cadets endure months of rigorous training. This is tomorrow's Russian army, which may or may not be dispatched to the killing fields of Chechyna where some of the fathers of these soldiers-in-training lost their lives.
A narrator introduces several boys and sketches their family backgrounds in the starkest terms. These tales suggest that a significant portion of Russia's future army will be made up of orphaned and discarded children, many the progeny of alcoholics, prostitutes and broken homes. Much of their training is devoted to endless drills in which they tramp through the snow in formation in modified goose step; the tiniest errors of dress and body language are coldly scrutinized and corrected. Even the boys' play is militarized; a snowball fight is organized as a war game.
Part 2, "Breathing," goes to Grozny, a city reduced to rubble. Some residents, however, have remained. A woman living near the top of a bombed-out high-rise hoists a bucket of water many stories through a window. Another lies gravely ill from water contaminated by oil, her three scared, weeping children clinging to her. Stray dogs scavenge the ruins.
A brave Chechen woman, Hadizhat Gataeva, knocks on the apartment door where the poisoned woman lives and gently pries her children away from their mother so they can be transported to safety across the border.
The last part of the film visits the orphanage where the children are sheltered and fed and where the adults gather to chant prayers. The narrator again sketches only the barest details of their histories. We meet Aslan, an 11-year-old boy who was found in a cardboard box, who lost much of his memory (he believes he's Chechen but may be Russian) after being sexually abused by Russian soldiers. Another boy, Adam, nearly died when his mother tried to throw him off a ninth-floor balcony after her husband was killed in the first Chechen war. Milana, 19, was raped by three Russian soldiers when she was only 12.
Although tears are shed in "The 3 Rooms of Melancholia," the film mostly lets its images speak for themselves. More affecting than any displays of emotion is the prevailing attitude of stoicism and endurance in the face of suffering. The film is a requiem for the living as well as for the dead.
* * * * * * *
The Art of War
Melancholia and the infinite sadness: Meditative Chechnya doc sidesteps the realities of war
Gaining invaluable political cover from both the war in Iraq and the actions of a Chechen extremist minority, the Russian government's brutal military campaign against the oil-rich Caucasian province's separatist insurgency has found an ideological home in Bush's vaguely conceived war on terror. Deliberately paced and suffused with mysticism, Finnish director Pirjo Honkasalo's documentary mood piece The 3 Rooms of Melancholia takes a tripartite look at the consequences of Putin's dirty war for children on both sides of the conflict.
Distanced in more ways than one, the movie opens thousands of miles away on the "fortress island" of Kronstadt, site of a Russian military school for kids as young as nine. The brief second segment takes place in the Chechen capital of Grozny, where a woman named Hadizhat collects the children of dead and dying parents. Some of her orphans appear in the landscape-fixated third section, residents of refugee camps located in the ~Censored~ autonomous republic of Ingushetia.
Willfully esoteric, 3 Rooms proceeds in the hushed tones of a guided tour through a medieval cathedral—even the academy's military instructors are surprisingly muted (anyone hoping to see a D.I. go all Lee Ermey on the cadets will leave disappointed). Sparse narration dispassionately sketches the horrific circumstances of the kids' lives (nearly all, cadets and refugees alike, were orphaned by the war). Aside from the stark black-and-white of the middle section, the whole movie's rendered in somber Rembrandt hues. By the nearly wordless final third, dominated by a mysterious religious rite that parallels an earlier academy chapel service (one of many subtle rhymes between segments), the funereal mood has imperceptibly morphed into an animistic trance.
War is hell, violence begets violence, hatred is passed on to future generations, etc., etc. Each section is more aestheticized than the last, a strategy not without its virtues; one shudders at the thought of this subject—orphaned children in wartime—falling into the wrong hands. Nevertheless 3 Rooms relies excessively on languid shots of kids' blank-slate faces, and despite frequent sidelong references to past atrocities, frustratingly little here grapples with the day-to-day realities of life in Chechnya and the surrounding areas. The most politically resonant moments are context-free bits of nightmare logic: "The oil wells will kill you," one character says; another shot lingers on a sign in a school corridor that reads, "Don't gossip near a phone. A talking head is treasure for a spy"—an injection of Stalin-era paranoia that feels all too timely.
Such poetic asides notwithstanding, Honkasalo's self-consciously high-art approach seems likely, at least for American audiences, to render an already remote conflict even stranger and more exotic. Production on 3 Rooms came to a premature halt in the fall of 2003, when the war began spilling over into Ingushetia, but that sense of danger and chaos is systematically excluded from the finished film. This is the kind of movie that attracts adjectives like "rarefied" and "meditative." It's beautifully shot and was made with undeniable intelligence (and at some physical risk to the filmmakers). Still, is it unfair to ask if meditation is really an adequate response to war? To suggest that the contemplation of natural beauty here is but an escape from the vicissitudes of human history? Given the sheer number of poorly crafted political docs that have sprung up like weeds over the past couple years, the lack of bleeding-heart sentiment and liberal preachiness comes as a relief. But given the current geopolitical stakes, 3 Rooms also feels like a retreat.
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