I knew as soon as I watched the first trailer for this film that I wanted to see it. Starring Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton, I knew these two powerhouse actors were not to be missed. Plus I just adore Idris Elba. But I also found the idea interesting. But would the filmmakers be able to convey so much in one film? The writing was engaging, the actors brilliant, and the story was vivid and romantic with ideas that writers and storytellers will especially find appealing.
Three Thousand Years of Longing is a fantasy film directed and co-written by George Miller, adapted from a short story, The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye, by A. S. Byatt. In the film, Dr. Alithea Binny, a narratologist and a scholar of stories, is content with her life and all it holds. While in Istanbul for a conference, however, she happens to encounter a Djinn who offers her three wishes in exchange for his freedom. Alithea is careful because she knows all the cautionary tales. The Djinn pleads his case by telling her fantastical stories of his past. Eventually, she succumbs to him and makes a wish that surprises them both.
One of my first thoughts when watching this movie was beguiling. The story is introduced from Alithea’s point of view, and she details it as a story. Is it real or imaginary? In the case of this film, it almost doesn’t matter. It sets up the wondrous stories but, more importantly, digs into the theme of stories and their meanings. It illustrates that humans find feelings through stories and also that stories change our perspective and our ideas just as this film does. Stories are woven deep into the DNA of humanity, and this movie encapsulates this perfectly.
One of the reasons the theme works so well is the stories the Djinn tells Alithea. Those historical and imaginary elements are vivid and impossibly romantic. There is a fire to those stories, just like the Djinn himself. The film is visually stunning. And because it is so beautiful, it will sweep the audience away, compelling you to enjoy all the elements of a good story. It also helps that Alithea expands on the way the stories follow patterns and guide us through the film. The story is wonderfully crafted.
Tilda Swinton is phenomenal, although I expected little else. Whenever she or Idris was onscreen, you couldn’t look away, each compelling for different reasons. Tilda focused the stories, asked questions, and was excellent in her portrayal of Alithea, a scholar and a woman content in her life, having little need for passion until she encountered it. Idris Elba was remarkable in his performance as the Djinn. His presence was larger than life, and I can’t think of many actors who have his presence on screen. He was perfect for the role. The chemistry between the pair was beautiful and romantic, the dynamic between them passionate.
There are a few aspects I did find that could have improved the movie. The wishes Alithea makes are, in some regards, predictable, but there are very few stories that don’t follow certain rules, as they point out in the film. Her wishes followed that format. I also found the design of the Djinn interesting, but the makeup on his legs was an odd choice. Regardless, I still found the movie wonderful.
If you love Tilda Swinton and Idris Elba, I highly recommend this movie. It is romantic, engaging, and vivid in both design and story. The romantic and the storyteller in me loved this film, so if you are looking for a love story or are a storyteller, I think you will love this film and the pair of actors as much as I did. The story gave me much to think about, and I adored the relationship between Alithea and the Djinn.
4.5 out of 5 Stories
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Three Thousand Years of Longing
Dr Alithea Binnie (Tilda Swinton) is an academic – content with life and a creature of reason. While in Istanbul attending a conference, she happens to encounter a Djinn (Idris Elba) who offers her three wishes in exchange for his freedom. This presents two problems. First, she doubts that he is real and second, because she is a scholar of story and mythology, she knows all the cautionary tales of wishes gone wrong. The Djinn pleads his case by telling her fantastical stories of his past. Eventually she is beguiled and makes a wish that surprises them both.
THREE THOUSAND YEARS OF LONGING opens in theaters on Friday, August 26, 2022.
ONE-LINER: A lonely scholar, on a trip to Istanbul, discovers a Djinn who offers her three wishes in exchange for his freedom.