Three Thousand Years of Longing (2022)
Three Thousand Years of Longing (2022)

Genre: Fantasy and Romantic Drama Running Time: 1 hr. 48 min.

Release Date: August 26th, 2022 MPAA Rating: R

Director: George Miller Actors: Tilda Swinton, Idris Elba, Matteo Bocelli, Jack Braddy, Aamito Lagum, Burcu Golgedar, Ece Yuksel, Lachy Hulme, Anna Betty Adams

 


 

O

n her way to the annual Modern Myth festival in Turkey, narratologist Alithea Binnie (Tilda Swinton) begins seeing strange figures. The delusory episodes escalate until culminating with her being attacked onstage by one such apparition during her mythology presentation. Despite these ominous omens, Alithea soon ventures forth into an Istanbul market to come away with a disheveled glass bottle souvenir. Upon opening it, she unwittingly releases a magical djinn (Idris Elba), who informs the shocked Binnie that he can – and must – grant her three wishes in order to be free from thousands of years of captivity. Well aware that all stories about wishes are cautionary tales often ending in despair, the scholarly woman is hesitant to comply. As the Djinn proceeds to regale Alithea with the epic tragedies that led to his imprisonment, she must determine if the mystical being can be trusted – and if her own desires outweigh the risks of wishing them true.

Insisting that her story is real, but that audiences aren’t likely to believe it unless it’s told as a fairy tale, the narrator’s perspective is immediately called into question, especially as visions seem to plague her routines. The editing is stylized to match, with hallucinatory inclusions galore, but it’s all primarily a love letter to the art of creative storytelling. Writer/director George Miller clearly likes fantasy – and isn’t afraid to apply it liberally to a premise that almost doesn’t need it, considering the main character’s underlying goal is a more straightforward romance.

Engagingly, as the film follows along with Middle Eastern folk tales reminiscent of “One Thousand and One Nights” and concepts from “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen” (the script is actually based on A.S. Byatt’s 1994 novella “The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye”), it examines the evolution of such fictional concoctions, from the invention of mythology to explain the unknown, to the accumulation of science – which negates the need for those former beliefs. Monsters and magicians materialize here in the wishmaster’s stories, suggesting that not every detail is to be taken literally – something that comparably inquires about the veracity of Alithea’s own narrative. “My imagination’s been getting the best of me.”

By setting no boundaries on the reality of this lead and her newfound companion’s wild yarns, anything could happen at any moment – believable or unbelievable. It’s the perfect setup for a horror film (especially with the classic “Bedazzled” idea of wishes gone awry), but here it’s exceptionally amusing in fantasy form, meditating on human nature. Knowledge, loneliness, desire, inventions, the boundaries of time, the follies of humanity, the potential phoniness of ancient historical or biblical texts, and the powers of the mind collide in eloquently-painted cautionary tales full of humor and ingenuity. Despite a handful of unconvincing CG manifestations, the imagery and colorfulness are captivating; it’s thrilling, dramatic, romantic, and magical as it reveals unexpected twists and otherworldly complications.

“Hope is a monster.” The picture also nicely delves into morality, manipulation, familial betrayals, and touching moments of swelling emotions; every time the djinn recounts his interactions with characters from centuries ago, the symbolism and allegories become mesmerizing. The fantasy elements are simply sumptuous. Strangely, however, the third act veers back to Alithea (essentially a stranger when it comes to her own potential for wish-making) and her personal cravings for emotional satiation, forcing the film to focus on a far less fantastical union in a much more realistic environment. It’s quite suddenly ineffective, deviating from using the djinn as a source of eloquent tearjerkers to turning him into an active participant in a practically unnecessary love story – one that features no answers to a multitude of questions that wouldn’t have been asked in the prior setting of mysticism-filled ancient civilizations. The visuals are absorbing, the notes on all-consuming love are moving, and the music by Tom Holkenborg (aka Junkie XL) is grand, but this finale precipitately and utterly derails what could have been a harmonious fantasy by injecting a feeble dose of modern people’s incompatible longings.

– The Massie Twins

  • 6/10