NA: You know, to me editing is not that important,  it’s telling stories, it’s life that interests me. Editing is just, you know, a method.

ED: Of course.

NA: But we have some words. ED: Yes.

ED: Well, maybe you can tell me why you chose the words you did, and I can tell you why I chose the words  I did.

NA: Okay.

ED: You chose the word ‘silence’.

NA: Breathing and silence.

ED: I like those words.

She makes a landscape where she invites the audience to take their own walks

NA: Yeah, I chose breathing because you made a wonderful film called  I am Breathing. But I also think that a film has breathing  in its rhythm, and I think somehow it’s related to the way we people, human beings, are taking things in. And I think  a lot of films don’t allow the audience to breathe. That is maybe why, the other day, in the middle of a conversation, I suddenly remembered that the first chapter of 3 Rooms of Melancholia is also called Breathing.

ED: Oh, how interesting, why did Pirjo Honkasalo  call it breathing, you think?NA: It starts  with a wake-up scene, you see those young boys in the first chapter in that military academy in St. Petersburg. We see those vulnerable boys in their uniforms… So I think, when we don’t breathe anymore – like in your film – we are dead.

ED: Yes, I think 3 Rooms of Melancholia is a film with so much space  for an audience  to breathe,  and so much space that acknowledges an audience’s mind and presence. Maybe that element – giving, but not waiting, for someone to receive, is the problem in some edits. That the space, the resonance, of somebody receiving isn’t present,  somehow, but it felt very generously present  in 3 Rooms of Melancholia. And that felt kind of musical as much as a cognitive process or intellectualizing or even just emotionally engaging with a film. It felt a very physical, embodied reception of it as an audience. When you were editing,  how did you think of the audience, or did you think of the audience? Or was it just by being so present  yourself in that  edit situation  that  allowed that  breath  and that  space?

NA: To be honest,  I have never worked on a film like 3 Rooms of Melancholia  before. I have always known storytelling and character building, and here was a film with no normal narrative  and no main characters. I was used to those huge amounts of material, hundreds of hours, and here there were sixteen hours. So it was a very different process in a way, normally I think I know my film and when I have test screenings. I know at this moment, they will be crying, you know, so I control the audience’s emotions. Pirjo doesn´t want to be at screenings and only listens to very few people.. It’s not because she is arrogant, it’s because she wants to protect her uniqueness, so she doesn’t get confused. So in many ways I only understood  the film a long time after it was out.

ED: Oh, but  what  did you understand in the end?

NA: How it works on an audience,  and why it works as it works. ED: How do you edit then?

NA: To me it was just a kind of – I am not sure I understand this. This was something I have never tried before, but I felt that this was fascinating and interesting, and purely new – also what she wanted and what she didn’t want. So I trusted her. We were also sitting at two computers,  working, and I started one chapter, then it went to Pirjo’s editing room, and then she was editing, and then it got back to me. So we were talking  very little, it was a nonverbal process.

The 3 Rooms of Melancholia

ED: Do you think  that stopped it from being too intellectual? That it allowed it to have that direct visual, physical sense, which I think it has  as a film?

NA: Yeah, and I think somehow it would have been more banal, if we had talked about it. I think somehow this process was great for this film. In others you talk a lot with these different directors, we have different approaches and different ways.

ED: I remember a lovely thing  you told our students, Niels, when you said that you spurned the director as an editor. I think that’s such a lovely approach that you respond to each person in such a different way. But this thing you said about [how] you were used to before, as an editor, controlling the audience’s emotion, is that right?

NA: Yes.

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