‘Three Thousand Years of Longing’ Review

To expand upon my quick thoughts in the video, Three Thousand Years of Longing is a romantic fantasy film directed by George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road), from a screenplay written by Miller and his daughter Augusta Gore. Featuring Tilda Swinton, Idris Elba, Aamito Lagum, Ece Yüksel, Burcu Gölgedar, and Matteo Bocelli, the film is an adaptation of the 1994 short story The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye by A. S. Byatt. The story follows Alithea Binnie, a British narratologist who accidentally unleashes a Djinn that was trapped in an antique bottle she purchased during a trip to Istanbul. The Djinn offers to grant her three wishes as long as they are her heart’s desire.

Alithea Binnie (Tilda Swinton) travels to Istanbul for a conference on narratology. After the plane lands, Alithea grabs her bags and heads to meet her colleagues. While pushing her cart a small vaporous man attempts to get her to go another way. After a slight struggle, the man leaves and disappears. She asks her contemporaries if they also saw the man to which they all reply no. During her conference, she notices another vaporous taller man staring at her in the audience. She ignores him and resumes giving her speech. As she continues the man flies toward her causing her to faint.

She awakens and her partner helps her off the stage. Outside she tells him that she occasionally suffers from bizarre hallucinations, but she will be okay. They head to the bazaar to shop for trinkets and Alithea finds an antique blue and white bottle and purchases it. While cleaning the bottle she unleashes a Djinn (Idris Elba) that was trapped inside. Initially speaking in Greek, the Djinn offers to grant Alithea three wishes. Using her knowledge of stories and mythology she accuses the Djinn of being a trickster which he denies. To make her feel more at ease the Djinn proceeds to tell Alithea three stories of his past and of each time he ended up trapped in the bottle.

As a lover of fantasy, the concept of Three Thousand Years of Longing had me intrigued. From Aladdin to Wishmaster the notion of a genie/djinn giving a person three wishes is always an interesting topic. Djinn can be a force of good i.e. Aladdin or a force of great evil i.e. Wishmaster. Applying this concept to the real world is interesting because we, like the main character, have stories to influence us on the behavior of these creatures making coming up with a wish a bit harder. Not wanting to be tricked or ruin our lives we think about the wording of the wish carefully. There’s also trying to figure out how to get more wishes. Three Thousand Years of Longing covers all of these questions and more. They set up specific rules for what the Djinn can do with his powers and what he cannot. It is also stated that the wish must truly come from the heart for if it’s not a real desire it won’t count.

The acting in this film is superb. Most of the film is carried strictly by Swinton and Elba. The only time Swinton is not on camera is when the Djinn is telling his stories. Since the Djinn appears in every story Elba has more screen time. Both actors feel at home in their roles as they are similar to characters they have played in the past. Alithea is intelligent, soft-spoken, and empathetic while the Djinn is large, powerful, and intuitive. The pair have great chemistry although it is not fully explored. The best aspect of this film is when the Djinn is telling the stories of his past to Alithea. With each new story comes a new period and new characters. Once the stories stopped it felt like the film had nowhere else to go and tried to pivot into a love story that didn’t work. There are also a few loose ends that the film never quite makes it back around to wrapping up, unfortunately leaving the audience longing for an answer – no pun intended.

Overall, this is a movie that would have been helped by a more streamlined premise. The acting is great and the cinematography is beautiful, but maybe it’s not worth seeing in theaters. I give Three Thousand Years of Longing a Solid 6.5/10. This film would have worked better as small budget anthology than the love story it tried to become.

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