Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures and United Artists present Three Thousand Years of Longing: I loved this film. Give me a film about magic and I’m there. This film takes all the preconceived notions we have of genies and wishes and elevates them to a sophisticated, mature level. It’s a film that speaks to adults and their inner child. Three Thousand Years of Longing is an engaging fantasy that highlights the human experience and gives insight into the desires of us all.
The latest from director George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road) and written by Miller and Augusta Gore based on the 1994 short story, “The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye” by A.S. Byatt, the film follows Dr. Alithea Binnie (Tilda Swinton, The French Dispatch), a professor content with life, using wisdom and logic as her guide. While visiting Istanbul as a guest lecturer, Alithea purchases a blue glass bottle that houses a Djinn (Idris Elba, The Harder They Fall). She is offered three wishes of her deepest desires in exchange for the Djinn’s freedom. Aware of the cautionary tales of wishing gone awry, Alithea is hesitant to make any wishes. The Djinn pleads and tries to persuade Alithea to make a wish by telling her stories of his past. Eventually, she makes a wish no one sees coming.
The first thing you should know about this film is that it is very dialogue heavy. But that is to be expected when it comes to a film that has storytelling at its core. It’s the pacing, the language, and the descriptions used to enhance the visuals. Three Thousand Years of Longing is a work of art, colorful, imaginative, and truly a special experience on the big screen.
The script for this film is like a bedtime story for kids. It is full of caution, smarts, adventure, romance, and everything else one needs to fuel their dreams. The language is precise and delivered in perfect time with the visuals, which builds excitement and mystery as we think about what we would wish for with Alithea. Three Thousand Years of Longing is a story within a story that never loses sight of the main objective, goals, or characters.
The film hosts many themes. The ones that stand out are the general be-careful-what-you-wish-for adventure, as well as the ideas that love is mysterious and complicated and women can be powerful regardless of their position or station in life. The women in the stories told, as well as Alithea, showcase these themes on screen. It’s fun to watch and follow along.
Women are the center of Three Thousand Years of Longing. They make the decisions, and it’s about damn time. From the Queen of Sheba to a penniless servant, the women steer the course of these stories and I want more of it.
The language and pacing are elevated by the film’s actors, Swinton and Elba. I will admit, I was nervous when I saw these two on screen together for the first time in this film. I didn’t think it would work, but it does. The chemistry between the two varies from time to time throughout the film, but it never gets uncomfortable. It’s a unique story with the two leads playing their parts admirably. I don’t think we got to know Swinton’s character, Alithea, well enough. Nevertheless, you root for her and hope her wish works out. Swinton is a fantastic actor whose oddities pair nicely with the stories told in this film. Elba is our narrator for most of the film, and he does not disappoint. His voice is perfect for this film — not to mention, his performance as a djinn is one I could watch again and again.
The cinematography in this film is gorgeous. Director of photography John Seale (English Patient) captures everything right. Seale came out of retirement to work with director George Miller. The last film he worked on was Mad Max: Fury Road, which also had excellent cinematography. Real life and fantasy were dramatically contrasted but captured in a vivid light.
The visual effects were all right. My expectations were Will Smith’s Genie, but what we got is so much better than that. The visuals demand to be seen on the big screen. Even with the key location being a hotel room, the way it’s captured makes it seem like a whole world in that tiny space. Not to mention, the wonderful places that we get to visit as the Djinn tells his life story are vividly brought to life.
Three Thousand Years of Longing is what fantasy storytelling is and should be. It’s a different type of film that I’m hoping many audiences will enjoy. With all the new TV shows and films, It seems like the start of a resurgence of the fantasy genre.
Three Thousand Years of Longing is currently playing in theaters.