Critic’s Rating : / 5
Three Thousand Years Of Longing Movie Review : A dark fantasy that’s languorous yet vivid and charming
Three Thousand Years of Longing Review: An adaptation of A S Byatt’s short story book, The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye, this is a modern-day fairytale in harmony with fable and myth. Dr Alithea Binnie (Tilda Swinton) is a literary scholar on a trip to Istanbul for a conference on mythology, science and storytelling. She frees Djinn (Idris Elba) while scrubbing an ornament bottle and must ask for three wishes that will release the genie after 3,000 years of incarceration. Here’s the catch: Alithea is sceptical because genies are known to be tricksters, and as she says, “There’s no story about wishing that’s not a cautionary tale.” Djinn needs to persuade her and does so by recounting tales of his captivity.
There are no flying carpets in any of the stories. On the contrary, this is ‘Alladdin’ of a dark, fantastical world replete with love, longing, lust, hatred, betrayal, atrocities and disappointments. The first story is about the Queen of Sheba (Aamito Lagum), shown as Djinn’s lover before ending up with King Solomon, and the other stories are about an enslaved girl, an unhappy wife (Burcu Golgedar) who yearns for knowledge and a future ruler confined to a room with voluptuous women.
All the stories are tragically charming, and the direction lacks the fury of George Miller’s previous outing, Mad Max: Fury Road, as it should, given its vein. However, moving from one story to the next makes the flick staccato and abrupt in parts — mainly when Alithea asks for her first wish and everything that happens in the second half.
The film tries to capture how enthralling storytelling can be, but that seems more in theory without really translating on-screen. Though the tales are captivating and shot vividly, Djinn’s narration in most parts instead of dialogues takes away from their essence. As evident from the title, the movie is about longing and loneliness, which continues across three thousand years, from Djinn’s first encounter with love with Queen of Sheba to the 19th century and even in the 21st Century through Alithea, who is lonesome but wouldn’t admit it. A nice touch is also how little one knows about her since she prefers being a private person.
Miller and co-writer (his daughter) Augusta Gore also depart from whitewashing characters and depict a Black Djinn and the Queen of Sheba, historically known to be from the Middle East.
The dialogues are simple yet impactful, especially the banter between Alithea and Djinn. “Despite all the whiz-bang, we remain bewildered,” the scholar says when Djinn marvels at technology, or when he describes the Queen of Sheba, “She was not beautiful. She was beauty.”
Watch the movie for the impelling stories, compelling performances, and ornate visuals. It does get drab intermittently, but it will leave you with a bittersweet feeling.