“Three Thousand Years of Longing” leaves mixed feelings

New film “Three Thousand Years of Longing” leaves viewers both captivated and underwhelmed.

Director of “Happy Feet” and the “Mad Max” series, George Miller added to his mismatched cinematic tableau with “Three Thousand Years of Longing.” An immediate sense of maturity might come over the viewer as they realize this is not an exciting, trailer-making experience but instead an adult fairy tale with a story about stories. Idris Elba portrays a Djinn (non anglicized genie) released by Tilda Swinton’s character, a solitary narratologist. She’s unwilling to make the three wishes necessary to free the Djinn, knowing of the consequences that come from every three wishes story and lacking desire herself. With the goal of sparking her desire, the Djinn tells the story of his captivity, really stories of desire that span 3,000 years.

The film realizes a fantastic feat in being something so different. There are so many weird and bizarre oddities that are not explained what they are or why they are there; instead, they just serve the purpose of adding to the magical world. To give an idea, the first story focuses on the Queen of Sheba (kin to the Djinn). King Solomon arrives to wed her, performing from a singing cello. The next story follows the Djinn to Suleiman the Magnificent’s court.

I was captivated. At times, shots are beautiful like a painting and punctuate the whole scene. The strong narrative and elements of magical realism feel like a novel, but the cinematic elements pale in comparison. The performance of the two leads, and really the only characters, feels underwhelming. I would rather read some of Elba’s lines than hear him perform them. This is a problem because he is the narrator for most of the movie. The third act takes place in the real world and completes the romance this film is supposed to be. I’m conflicted; on one hand, the romance is weak and could not carry its own narrative, but on the other, much of the commentary on the role of storytelling comes from this section. With no doubt, I think the film experience falls apart here. Nearly every scene ends with a cut to black successfully faking out an ending. The most egregious case was the word “three,” as if the title were being shown followed by “years later.” Messaging about anti-bigotry and cultural appreciation along with the 2020 pandemic during this act is coy but cluttering.

I left the theater feeling conflicted; the cinematic experience felt lackluster, but I had much to chew on. The film creates a mystery surrounding Swinton’s character, having me question the origin of the Djinn. The effect was thinking about the role of stories for us as people and what storytelling means for accepting yourself. You might have heard good writing reveals something about yourself; “Three Thousand Years” portrays a different perspective. That it indulges messaging about the bigotry that accompanied the 2020 pandemic and anti-immigration sentiments is noble in intent, but cluttered in practice. To end, this is a tough recommendation to give. Normally, when I really enjoyed a movie I have this immediate feeling afterwards, this case not so much, if at all. Consider watching it if you really enjoy storytelling or have an absolute fix for adult fantasy.

Post Author: Ali Ghazimoradi