Life & Culture

Three Thousand Years of Longing Film review: A magical mixture of fantasy and history

Mad Max writer-director-producer George Miller takes us on a crazily big and mad voyage with a touch of feminist flare to boot.


Three Thousand Years of Longing

Three Thousand
Years of Longing
Cert 15 | ★★★★✩

Aussie writer-director-producer George Miller (The Mad Max film series, Lorenzo’s Oil, Babe: Pig in the City) returns with this preposterously themed, yet commendably ambitious fantasy film.

Based on the 1994 short story The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye by A. S. Byatt, it tells the story of a djinn (Idris Elba) who is freed by a professor (Tilda Swinton) and recounts his life to her.

Alithea Binnie (Swinton) is a taciturn British scholar who occasionally suffers from bizarre hallucinations.

During a trip to Istanbul, Alithea buys an antique glass bottle from which she accidentally releases a djinn who was trapped within it. The djinn grants Alithea three wishes, but the scholar accuses her new companion of being a trickster.

In response to her accusation, the djinn offers to tell her three tales from his past that led to him being trapped in the bottle for thousands of years.

From the Queen of Sheba to the Ottoman Empire, Miller then takes us on a journey in which fantasy and history walk hand in hand and in which women remain at the heart of every chapter of the story.

On paper, Miller’s film sounds more than little out there, but there is something pleasing and more than a little satisfying about a film which completely commits to its narrative without added airs and graces.

Miller delivers an unabashedly earnest, funny and hugely entertaining fantasy romp which is only slightly let down by an overinflated final act. Elba and Swinton deliver two strong and typically mesmerising performances in a film which, for the most part, functions as an almost claustrophobic two-hander.

Granted Mad Max fans will no doubt be baffled by the whole thing, and who could blame them, but one suspects that this is a very personal project for Miller and he will be more than a little amused by the array of reactions this story is likely to get.

This is a robustly acted and brilliantly written fantasy tale with more than just a touch of feminist flare to boot.

Furthermore what the film lacks in coherence throughout, it more than makes up for in its sheer disregard for what is expected from its director.

It is crazily big and loud and I have to admit that I savoured every second of this mad voyage.

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