‘Three Thousand Years of Longing’ uncorks the magic and science of love
“Three Thousand Years of Longing” takes a new, deeper spin on the genie story.
When you first start watching “Three Thousand Years of Longing,” you may be uncertain about the film’s direction, but keep watching. The payoff is a story that’s far more meaningful than the typical genie story, and during a recent screening in Santa Barbara, some people applauded when the credits rolled.
Certainly the movie benefits from the great talent of Idris Elba, easily one of the best actors in today’s cinema, who makes the genie or, to The Djinn, a compelling, sympathetic character. There’s also great chemistry between Mr. Elba and fellow star Tilda Swinton, who plays Dr. Alithea Binnie, an academic who has studied history. She buys a bottle, rubs it with a toothbrush to clean it in her hotel room’s sink, and — you guess it — the Djinn comes out.
After that, the film is full of surprises.
The Djinn tells Alithea she has three wishes and urges her to make them. He gets his freedom if she does. But Alithea knows how wishes can have unexpected consequences and is hesitant to wish for anything.
So the Djinn tries to win her trust by telling her his story of love, hope, despair and incarcerations. His stories are compelling, and the Djinn assures Alithea he’s telling the truth about himself.
Can Alithea believe him? She has her own story of an ex-husband who cheated on her, and the question is whether she can find true love.
Hmm. Could she wish for it?
But the questions and answers aren’t that simple in “Three Thousand Years of Longing,” which has plot surprises that won’t be spoiled here. But it’s not spoiling anything to say the costumes and sets are extravagant as the Djinn tells his stories or that each of his stories is unique. The film also tackles the issue of foolish wishes vs. wise ones.
As the Djinn, Mr. Elba does a lot with every word and every facial expression, and his acting involves subtle nuances that make each scene that much more compelling. This is a genie who isn’t over the top, yet his scenes are full of magic.
And Ms. Swinton, who played the Sorcerer Supreme in the first “Doctor Strange” movie and “Avenger: Endgame,” delivers each of her lines with a sense of insight and unwavering sincerity.
Director George Miller, who brings out the best in the actors and proves to be a great storyteller himself, co-wrote the screenplay with August Gore. They adapted A.S. Byatt’s short story “The Djinn in The Nightingale’s Eye,” and Mr. Miller and Mr. Gore gave the talented cast inspired dialogue.
The result is a movie that requires some work on the viewer’s part. You have to pay attention, you have to listen.
But your reward is the film you wished for.