Three Thousand Years of Longing – movie review

From the folk tales of One Thousand and One Nights, to highest grossing film of 1992, Aladdin, the story of the genie in a lamp is familiar. Now director George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road) provides a new take on the tale with Three Thousand Years of Longing.

Dr Alithea Binnie (Tilda Swinton) is a scholarly storyteller – a creature of reason. But she’s having vivid and alarming visions. While in Istanbul for a conference, she purchases an old misshapen bottle. When she tries to clean it, something extraordinary happens. Her rubbing triggers the appearance of a djinn (genie) who’s been trapped inside for many years. He proceeds to relay to her how he was freed on three separate occasions, only to be trapped again. These fantastic tales involve love, war and betrayal.

To remain free, the djinn needs Alithea to make three wishes. There are rules however. For instance, Alithea can’t wish for eternal life. She’s suspicious she may be being taken on a ride, but the more she hears the stronger her connection to the djinn. Still, there are sounds in this modern world that don’t sit comfortably with him.

Three Thousand Years of Longing is an engaging, if decidedly far-fetched, fantasy about connection. It is proof that Tilda Swinton has credibility, even when she plays a creative if lonely soul in a story of make-believe. Throughout she maintains the intelligent visage that is her hallmark. Idris Elba adds big ticket gravitas as the djinn, who weaves many a colourful story. The picture painted is that of an adult fairy tale.

Co-writer (with Augusta Gore) and director Miller is, of course, quite at home with the genre. He was responsible for Babe and Happy Feet, not to overlook Mad Max. Miller and Gore have certainly let their imaginations wander. Their writing is based on a short story – The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye – by A.S. Byatt. The picture is colourful throughout, the production design by Roger Ford being a feature.Visual effects too are allowed to flourish, with plenty to admire.

So, Three Thousand Years of Longing is a pleasant lavish distraction.

Alex First

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