Three Thousand Years of Longing – Film Review
Director George Miller
Writers George Miller, Augusta Gore, A.S. Byatt (based upon the short story “The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye” by)
Stars – Tilda Swinton, Idris Elba, Pia Thunderbolt
Alithea (Tilda Swinton) is a narratologist, a person who studies and teaches the art of storytelling. When she arrives in Istanbul for her latest conference, one of the local University professors takes her to see some local colour, including a secluded shop selling trinkets and gems of unknown origin. She falls in love with one simple-looking glass jar, blue and white in colour. Despite the best efforts of her friend to dissuade her from this choice, she remains steadfast and brings the container back to her hotel room. As she gets ready for the conference the next day, she decides to scrub a small stain off the top of the jar. Once she breaks the seal, she finds that there is a surprise lurking inside in the form of the Djinn (Idris Elba).
This is the latest film by director George Miller who has had one of the most unusual careers in the film industry. He made his name with Mad Max way back in 1979 and since that time he has worked on such varied films as The Witches of Eastwick, Lorenzo’s Oil, Babe: Pig in the City and Happy Feet (one and two!) He returned to the Mad Max saga once more with Mad Max: Fury Road in 2015, a film that captured the imagination of moviegoers and critics alike. This film is another side step in his unusual career. It is based on the short story The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye which was written by Booker Prize winner A.S. Byat and published in 1994.
This is quite a post-modern take on the tales of Djinn (or Genies). The character of Alithea knows that every story involving a Djinn is a cautionary tale, and she is slow to make a wish, instead waiting to see if she can escape the potential curse which comes with the greed of wishing for too much! While her life is not perfect, she is content and doesn’t want the curse of a Djinn to change it forever.
A lot of what happens in this story meets with the conventions of the myth. We hear about the life of the Djinn and his love for various mortals. There are a number of different settings as he has passed many centuries trying to escape the curse that has trapped him in the bottle. The performance by the two main characters is lovely to watch. Tilda Swinton is every inch the intense and fastidious academic. She has put her career ahead of her personal life for many years and has some regrets despite her success. While Idris Elba has been overexposed in recent years, he is still a fine actor and plays his over-the-top part with much zeal.
I suspect this film will divide opinions. Many will fall in love with it as there is just enough magic to reawaken your inner child. Whereas others will baulk at the idea of a film in the Fantasy Romance genre. The quality of Byatt’s writing shines through and there is no denying the talents of director George Miller. While the film could easily be dismissed as so much hokum, it does leave the viewer with a warm fuzzy glow, and that’s probably exactly what it was after from the start.