‘Three Thousand Years of Longing’ movie review: Djinn and tonic

The George Miller directorial, with its splendid imagery and sound so reminiscent of Baz Luhrmann’s Red Curtain trilogy and early Tarsem Singh, is right kind of narrative to lose oneself in

August 27, 2022 04:00 pm | Updated 06:51 pm IST

A still from ‘Three Thousand Years of Longing’

A still from ‘Three Thousand Years of Longing’

What an unlikely George Miller film this is! The Mad Maxdirector has created a Sufi paean to love filled with vibrant colours, passion, ecstasy, despair, imprisonment and freedom. It is however, par for the course from 77-year-old Academy Award-winning director of such diverse films as The Witches of Eastwick, Happy Feet, and Babe.

Three Thousand Years of Longing
Director: George Miller
Starring: Idris Elba, Tilda Swinton, Aamito Lagum, Aamito Lagum
Storyline: A scholar meets a djinn who offers three wishes in exchange for his freedom…
Run time: 108 minutes

Being a George Miller film, Three Thousand Years of Longing also thrums with the music of the spheres thanks to Tom Holkenborg, also known as Junkie XL, the man behind the flame-throwing guitar riffs on Mad Max: Fury Road.

Based on A. S. Byatt’s 1994 short story The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye, the film tells of Alithea (Tilda Swinton), who comes to Istanbul for a conference. Alithea releases a Djinn (Idris Elba) in her hotel room when she cleans a bottle she found in the Grand Bazaar.    

The Djinn, like all his ilk in stories, offers Alithea three wishes in return for freedom. Alithea being a narratologist, one who studies narrative and the science of stories, will have none of it. As she reminds the Djinn, all wish stories are cautionary tales.  

The two talk about stories and their histories. Alithea was a lonely child who created an imaginary friend, while the Djinn was imprisoned in the bottle thrice for love. Once when the Queen of Sheba (Aamito Lagum) chooses King Solomon over him, the second time when a palace maid seeks to get a prince to love her, and the third time when a young wife (Burcu Gölgedar) seeks to escape her circumstance through knowledge.

Like Byatt’s story, Three Thousand Years of Longing looks at fables and fantasy through a modern lens. The film splashes with glee into sources as diverse as One Thousand and One Nights, Geoffrey Chaucer, and the myth of Cybele, the Anatolian mother goddess.

It is, after all the story of stories. Alithea stays in the Agatha Christie room, Room 411 at the Pera Palace Hotel in Istanbul. The story goes that Christie wrote the popular detective novel, Murder on the Orient Express (1934) in that very room. At around €500 a night, you could also feel like Hercule Poirot at the Tokatlian Hotel.

The modern world co-exists with fable and Albert Einstein in a television is a shoe-in for today’s equivalent of the genie in a bottle. The electromagnetic waves in the atmosphere thanks to our many devices and appliances, are not so good for the Djinn even though he promises Alithea he will adapt.

Three Thousand years of Longing, with its splendid imagery and sound so reminiscent of Baz Luhrmann’s Red Curtain trilogy and early Tarsem Singh, is right kind of narrative to lose oneself in. That it is swoon-worthy romance across space and time is the icing on the cake. Rather, the ideal shot of Turkish coffee; dark as night and sweet as sin.

Three Thousand years of Longing is currently running in theatres

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