George Miller delivers an intriguing tale of Fantasy, Love Stories, dark wishes and deep desires in ‘Three Thousand Years of Longing’
Three Thousand Years of Longing is a tale of humanities lust, wishes and desire. Stories of Genies and wishes are always cautionary tales, much like time travel movies. Regardless of the wish or intention to change things artificially for our own benefit, they always end up with unwanted, usually negative consequences. Director George Miller is known for his visionary unique approach to film making and storytelling, can he bring something new to this genre?
Three Thousand Years of Longing is based on the short story “The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye” by A.S. Byattstars. It stars Tilda Swindon as Alithea Binnie, an intellect and scholar curious about the supernatural. She travels the world collecting interesting cultural artifacts and gives lectures that don’t aim to debunk the supernatural but instead tries to explain them with science. The idea is that when humanity is faced with experiences or creatures which we don’t yet have the ability to understand, we call it as ‘magic’.
Whilst visiting Turkey to deliver a lecture, she has a brief encounter at the airport with a strange man. After this, she begins to have supernatural visions of magical creatures and beasts. Due to her subject expertise, she refuses to believe she is going crazy or delusional and instead tries to find a logical scientific explanation for these visions. It’s during this time, she encounters a Djinn (genie) in her hotel (Idris Elba), who in typical fashion offers her three wishes.
The majority of the ‘real film time’ tales place inside this hotel room. And the interactions between the Djinn and Alithea form the crux of the movie. While watching, I got a strange feeling of Deja vu. A movie that takes place entirely in a hotel room with an attractive black guy offering a woman her deepest desires- Good Luck to You, Leo Grande (review) sprang to mind!
Being a scholar, Alithea is fully aware of the trappings of making wishes and refuses to make one. The Djinn explains to her that without her completing her three wishes, she risks damning him to oblivion. The movie becomes a battle of Wills between the two, with the genie trying to convince her to make a wish and Alithea countering his arguments. As Alithea is a history addict, the genie is able to engross her with impressive stories of his past and previous masters and tease her with the story of how he ended up here.
I found the stories from the Djinn quite interesting. He does really appear to be the unluckiest creature in the world as he stumbles from one master to another through unfortunate circumstances, remaining trapped. The idea of him finding a master who is so content, she has no wishes to make, was really an interesting angle to approach this fantasy from. The first two thirds of the movie are focused on this area. The pacing was manageable and understandably slow at times which is expected when dealing with a film where a hotel room is the main location.
The costumes, sets and locations used in the flashbacks are lovely to watch and help to create an immersive experience which really brings the Djinns stories to life. The final third sees the movie strip down to a romantic drama of sorts, which is where I lost some of my interest. A love story between the leads just didn’t seem that plausible and I hate to say it, there wasn’t enough chemistry between Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton to sell the romance.
Three Thousand Years of Longing was described in places as ‘Aladdin for adults’. I feel that was an oversimplification. This is the second movie in a matter of weeks from Idris Elba, Beast (review) being the other. As a fan of fantasy films, i expected to enjoy this one more but now I’ve seen it, I surprisingly prefer the dirt and grit of ‘Beast’.
Having said that, the premise of a woman so content with her life that she had no ‘deepest desire’ to wish for, made this a really fun story for me, despite the slight pacing issue. Based on the first two thirds of the movie, I would say this was an intriguing tale of Fantasy, love, lust, wishes and desire which doesn’t quite fulfil its promise but was still manages to be a decent watch.
Three Thousand Years of Longing is showing at Cinemas now. See the trailer here