TL;DR – While it might meander to the end, it shines when it delves into stories and vignettes of the past.
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
Disclosure – I paid to see this film.
Three Thousand Years of Longing Review –
Few films have ever captured my soul quite like Mad Max Fury Road, a movie that changed and shaped my engagement with cinema. It made such an impact that when I heard that the team behind the film, including director George Miller, were back for another ride. Well, I had to check that out on the opening day.
So to set the scene, once upon a time when humans flew through the skies on metal wings while pulling stories out of the air on their glass pads. A Narratologist called Alithea Binnie (Tilda Swinton) is making her annual trip from her gloomy home in England to a more exotic land in Istanbul to attend a conference of peers. But when she arrives, she starts to see things that are not quite right. Ignoring them as artifacts of her over-active imagination, she spends some time in Istanbul’s Grand Bazar, and she picks the one junk pile, in one of the rooms, in one of the thousands of shops and finds a glass jar whose life told a story. But she got more than what she wished for when in her hotel room, she decided to clean the jar up and inside was a powerful Djinn (Idris Elba) who gave her three wishes.
From a narrative perspective, the vast majority of this film takes place in one room, the hotel, as The Djinn recounts the story of how he became to be incarcerated in the glass jar after he became imprisoned by King Solomon (Nicolas Mouawad) when he visited Queen Sheba (Aamito Lagum). These stories within stories are all fascinating as they blend mythology, history, and fantasy all into something new. Some are confronting, some are fascinating, and all are tails of sadness. These stories work because you position the audience into a mindset of entries like One Thousand and One Night/The Arabian Nights, where we get these momentary insights into new worlds and move on to the next. They also reinforce the film’s themes, which are the power of stories and the effects those stories have on people’s lives.
As so much of the story is focused on Alithea, as The Djinn tells his tails of woe, you need to completely buy both characters in that situation for the whole endeavour to work. Thankfully, both Tilda Swinton and Idris Elba bring different energies to their performance that create something electric when combined. To support this, while most of the characters in the vignettes are only there for a small amount of time, they all make an impact with that time. It is a visual delight as we explore different times and places brought to life throughout the film. A lot of thought went into every transition, and every editing choice, so you are never left feeling dull as the film progresses.
However, while there is a lot that I liked from the film, there were also those aspects that did sit a bit heavy on my heart. The first is an overarching theme regarding women in this film that I am not sure was intended, but it did lead to some more icky moments. Three Thousand Years of Longing is a film that explores love and desire, but in exploring this, they tend only to show one facet of those relationships. This is understandable because we are getting the stories all demonstrated through the lens of The Djinn, but it still sits badly in places. As well as this, while the first two acts had me enraptured in the story, the final act is a slog. There are so many points where the narrative comes to a natural conclusion, and we fade to black only for it to go ‘wait, just a little bit more’. It was almost shocking when it finally stopped, and the credits rolled.
In the end, do we recommend Three Thousand Years of Longing? Well, I am not sure. This is a film that is equal parts, a narrative that is so joyous it leaves a smile on your face and a slog to get through like running through molasses. I like exploring stories and histories and twisting up what is known in a new way. But if that is not your jam, well, this will be a long film to sit through. If you liked Three Thousand Years of Longing, we would recommend to you Ever After.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Three Thousand Years of Longing
Directed by – George Miller
Screenplay by – George Miller & Augusta Gore
Based on – The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye by A. S. Byatt
Music by – Tom Holkenborg
Cinematography by – John Seale
Edited by – Margaret Sixel
Production/Distribution Companies – FilmNation Entertainment, Elevate Production Finance, Sunac Culture, Kennedy Miller Mitchell, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, United Artists Releasing & Roadshow Entertainment
Starring – Tilda Swinton & Idris Elba with Aamito Lagum, Burcu Gölgedar, Burcu Gölgedar, Kaan Guldur, Jack Braddy, Pia Thunderbolt, Megan Gale, Nicolas Mouawad, Jack Braddy, David Paulsen, Ogulcan Arman Uslu, Erdil Yasaroglu, Ece Yüksel, Matteo Bocelli, David Collins, Angie Tricker, Anthony Moisset, Alyla Browne, Hugo Vella, Berk Ozturk, Abel Bond, Lachy Hulme, Peter Bertoni, Lianne Mackessy, Anna Betty Adams, Ronny Mouawad, Georgiou Thomas, Hugo Vella, Melissa Jaffer & Anne Charleston
Rating – Australia: M; Canada: PG; Germany: 6; New Zealand: M; United Kingdom: 15; United States: R