Three Thousand Years of Longing is a movie directed by George Miller; written by Augusta Dore and George Miller; starring Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton. The story is based on the short story The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye written by A. S. Byatt.
Alithea Binnie is a Doctor in narratology who leads a comfortable life, and is quite contented with it. On one of her many trips, this one being to Istanbul for a conference, she will encounter a Djinn who grants her three wishes for having set him free: She holds back on those wishes, and strikes up a conversation with this magical being instead.
The announcement of the movie release had us anticipating something new and enthralling, not only given that the cast and the director are so well-known for their valued cinematic contruibutions, but also given that the premise is so full of possibility. How does one adapt a ‘fairy-tale’ to a movie in the era of The Lord of the Rings, and the bombastic Game of Thrones, and make it appealing to those who have watched neither and have, furthermore, developed a certain aversion to the fantasy genre? It was therefore, also with hesitation that I approached watching Three Thousand Years of Longing, fearing it would be too much fantasy and not enough wit and relatable characterizations, and perhaps a story with little substance. Well, I was happily surprised.
We are introduced to the main character with the narration by Tilda Swinton, as a traditional tale is, and so it takes off. A story about story-tellers, one being a narratologist (one who studies narrative and narrative structure), the other being the Djinn played by Idris Elba who shares his fantastical story with her. And through this artful storytelling the woman and the Djinn forge a strong bond. Does the movie manage to live up to the magic of good storytelling so central to the premise? It does. It creates an intimacy with the viewer with its paced narrative, and a well-rounded structure, making us privy to the accounts told, and further engages us in their development.
Lightening the feature, and with irony, the script does have humorous dialogue lines, and scenes signaling that we as viewers can sit back and watch a good movie, with a story of adventure, and of a friendship that becomes one of love thanks to… the almighty storytelling.
Nothing is as enticing as good storytelling, the tempo and cadence, the exposition, the rise, climax and resolution, the pathos – think One Thousand and One Nights. This movie is an homage to that art, which only few can master. Three Thousand Years of Longing is an ambitious pursuit, and manages quite well to live up to its aims, being entertaining, both narratively and visually.
The movie invites to be watched from the very beginning, as does the story invite to be heard. Visually, this film is crisp, colorful, rich in exquisite photography, close-ups, frames and sequences. So much so, I thought for a second, or two, that I was watching a Wes Anderson movie with an extra pinch of color and contrast.
Since it is a movie with a supernatural being as one of its lead characters, special effects are of course used, but not overused. They enliven the scenes where applied. Note, however, that the movie relies more on the good dialogue, the definition of its characters and the development of the story.
Both Tilda Swinton and Idris Elba play their parts wonderfully. She as a plain, somewhat self-contented woman, he as the Djinn who speaks English with an accent I can’t quite pin down – hers is Scottish. They make a good duo on screen.
This is a fairy tale designed to lure the cynics back to joys of magical stories.
Tilda Swinton / Alithea Binnie
Idris Elba / Djinn
Ece Yüksel / Gülten
Zerrin Tekindor / Kösem
Erdil Yaşaroğlu / Prof. Günhan
Kaan Guldur / Young Murad IV
David Collins / Jocular Storyteller
Alyla Browne / Young Alithea
Nicola Mouawad / King Solomon
Angie Tricker / Narratologist
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Three Thousand Years of Longing
Movie title: Three Thousand Years of Longing
Movie description: Alithea Binnie is a Doctor in narratology. On one of her many trips around the world, this time around she travels to Istanbul. This will be a trip that will change her comfortable circumstances as a Djinn enters her life and grants her three wishes for having set him free.
Date published: September 13, 2022
Duration: 108 mins
Author: Diane T. Larsen
Director(s): George Miller
Actor(s): Idris Elba, Tilda Swinton, David Collins, Alyla Browne, Hayley Gia Hughes, Angie Tricker, Sarah Houbolt, Kaan Guldur, Jason Jago
Genre: Fantasy, Drama, Comedy
A movie with narrative and visual substance. Captivating with its settings, and rich photography, and a story that will appeal to the romantic side in us. Ultimately, though, it is a tender homage to the art of good story-telling.