Review of big-budget fantasy romance, ‘Three Thousand Years of Longing’

December 3, 2022 Mario Bautista 674 views

Thousand1AS a filmmaker, Australian director George Miller is best known for the “Mad Max” movies which started in 1979 starring Mel Gibson. There are two sequels in 1981 and 1985 and the last one is the acclaimed “Mad Max: Fury Road” with Charlize Theron in 2015. He also did the “Happy Feet” movies and the drama “Lorenzo’s Oil”.

He now comes up with “Three Thousand Years of Longing”, a fantasy romance which he co-wrote, based on the short story, “The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye”. It starts with Tilda Swinton as Dr. Alithea Binnie, an academic scholar who believes in science and reason.

While attending a conference in Istanbul, she buys a strange looking bottle in an antique shop and when she accidentally opens it in her hotel while cleaning it, out comes a Djinn (Idris Elba) who’s trapped inside and gives her three wishes for him to regain his freedom.

But since she’s a mythology expert, she refuses to make a wish as she knows stories about wishes usually go wrong. The Djinn then tells her three stories of his past that started 3,000 years ago where he ends up trapped inside a bottle each time.

These are not the usual fairy tales but stories within stories aimed for adults, who might be astute enough to decipher their point. He starts with the Queen of Sheba from the Bible. He says she is his cousin who is courted by King Solomon.

Sheba is won by Solomon’s music (a hauntingly beautiful melody composed by the scorer, Tom Hollenborg) and it’s the king who traps the Djinn in a bottle that is then thrown by a bird into the Red Sea.

The melody is later given lyrics as sung by Matteo Bocelli, the good looking son of tenor Andrea Bocelli who plays Murad in the movie, and it’s so hummable we got afflicted with the last song syndrome.

The bottle then falls into the hands of Gulten, the youngest concubine of Sultan Suleiman. She is secretly in love with Suleiman’s son, Mustafa, and wishes that he would fall in love with her, but another wife of Suleiman intervenes and Gulten’s story ends in tragedy, with the Djinn still imprisoned inside the bottle.

A hundred years later, Sugar Lump, the overweight concubine of the new sultan, Ibrahim, accidentally finds the bottle and the Djinn is freed. He asks Sugar Lump, to make a wish but she got scared and just wishes that he returns to the bottle, which later falls into the hands of Zefir, the wife of a Turkish merchant.

She opens the bottle and the Djinn comes out. Her wish is for her to gain knowledge and he becomes her personal tutor. With her newly acquired knowledge, she feels she no longer needs his presence and wishes that the Djinn be confined in the bottle again. The final story concerns the love that grows between Alithea and the Djinn. They then encounter their own problems. Will there still be a happy ending for the Djinn?

Most of the actors who played major roles in the various stories told by the Djinn are played by unknown Middle Eastern actors who fit their respective roles, specially Aamito Lagum as the Queen of Sheba, Ece Yuksel as Gulten and Ogulcan Uslu as Murad.

Both Tilda and Idris are splendid in portraying their respective roles, specially Idris in his mystical character. But sad to say, they have a palpable lack of on-screen chemistry which is needed to ignite the screen in an interracial romance like this. As such, the odd pairing actually stalls the development of the subsequent romance between them that is not at all that appealing or credible in screen.

But the whole film is so handsomely mounted with incredible sets, eye-popping locations, colorful costumes and truly impressive visuals. You feel that Miller really indulged himself with ostentatious, extravagant storytelling in this colossal costume epic.

Honestly, though, there is something sterile in the film’s treatment. In its last half hour, when the story finally concentrates on their romantic relationship, you cannot feel the pain of eternal longing indicated in the title.

What you feel is just the longing for the film to end soon as it has definitely ran out of steam and is definitely not the grand magic carpet ride that it’s meant to be. But at least, the movie made us ask ourself: Given the same chance as Alithea, what would we really wish for?