Set on the backdrop of the Chechen war, the film follows the boys of the Kronstadt Cadet Academy, set up by presidential decree for orphaned children aged between 9 and 15.
Another main character is a woman named Hadizhat Gataeva, who tries to save the children from the ruins of Grozny and the refugee camps in Ingushetia, on the other side of the border.
Her family now consists of 63 children - almost all their parents have been killed by the Russians.
"These children seemed to have the serenity of a leafless tree, as if they already had within themselves one life, as if all the pain and longing that goes into adult life, all the relinquishing, had already been endured."
"Meaning sadness, 'melancholia' in the title also refers to its Greek origin, where it is composed by the words for 'black' and 'bile'. I set out to create a sort of triptych - I intended a musical structure for the film, rather than linear dramaturgy. I wanted to make three parts with varying themes, and in the end, on the cutting stage, they became the three rooms of Longing, Breathing and Remembering, with connecting doors," added Honkasalo, who originally scripted the film for a US-European documentary on the Ten Commandments. (Hers was the eighth: Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour).
As the US producers would not give her final cut, Honkasalo pulled out of the project and decided to make her own film, with European funding.
"Chechnya was an obvious place for the setting - false testimony against your neighbour is evident in a war situation, where children are fed images of the enemy which become a lifelong burden that they will most likely pass on to the next generation," she concluded.
Launched in 2004 at Venice, 'The 3 Rooms of Melancholia' won main festival prizes at - among others - Tampere, Amsterdam, Zagreb, Copenhagen, Thessaloniki and Prague.
Director/Scriptwriter: Pirjo Honkasalo
A writer, director, photographer and producer, Pirjo Honkasalo shot to international fame in 1980, as her film with Pekka Lehto, 'Tulipää' ('Flame Top') was selected for competition in Cannes - and the Finns distributed Molotov cocktails filled with vodka at the festival.
She went on to collaborate with Lehto on 'Da Capo' (1985). Her principal work in the 1990s was the 'Trilogy of the Sacred and the Evil', comprising 'Mysterion' (1991), 'Tanjuska ja 7 perkelettä' ('Tanjuska and the 7 Devils'/1993) and 'Atman' (1996). In 1998 she directed 'Tulennielijä' ('Fire-Eater').
Producer: Kristiina Pervilä
"This time there was no desk work at home," said Honkasalo of her producer. "Shooting was so difficult and even dangerous that on the final trip only we were the only two working - I was filming, Pervilä was recording the sound."
An independent producer since 1988, Kristiina Pervilä has produced opera and ballet for the stage, as well as a wide range of documentaries for cinema and television, music productions and live performances.
An analyst and tutor for EDN and Eurodoc training programmes, she founded Millennium Film in 1999.
Kristiina Pervilä, Millennium Film