The Movie Waffler New to Prime Video - THREE THOUSAND YEARS OF LONGING | The Movie Waffler


A narratologist discovers a Djinn in a bottle while on a trip to Istanbul.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: George Miller

Starring: Tilda Swinton, Idris Elba, Aamito Lagum, Burcu Gölgedar, Matteo Bocelli

Three Thousand Years of Longing poster

Some of us go to the movies for stories, others for sensory thrills. George Miller's best movies – his Mad Max series – have little to offer those in the former camp, but provide plenty of visceral thrills for the latter group. Miller isn't the first filmmaker you'd associate with great storytelling, so it's odd to see him adapt 'The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye', AS Byatt's love letter to the form, as Three Thousand Years of Longing, his follow-up to the acclaimed Mad Max: Fury Road, a movie that shares more in common with a symphony than a story.

Three Thousand Years of Longing review

Tilda Swinton is miscast as Alithea Binnie, a Northern English narratologist (that's an expert in stories to you and I) who travels to Istanbul for a conference. With an accent that verges on parody, you can't help wonder why Miller didn't cast a Brenda Blethyn type in the role of Alithea. While exploring the markets of the Turkish metropolis, Alithea comes across an intriguing bottle. Despite the shopkeeper's attempts to upsell her on something a little glitzier, Alithea purchases the bottle. Returning to her hotel room she discovers that the bottle is home to a Djinn (an equally miscast Idris Elba). As is their way, this Djinn grants Alithea three wishes, but she claims she has all she needs from life and is more interested in hearing the Djinn's stories.

Three Thousand Years of Longing review

Thus sets in motion an anthology of three stories set in a dumbed down and mashed up version of what westerners view as "the Orient," as the Djinn tells uninteresting tales of his previous masters and mistresses. The aesthetic Miller opts for to tell these tales will bring back unwelcome memories of all those awful, CG heavy fantasy movies that came out of Hollywood in the wake of Zack Snyder's The 300, and were it not for the presence of pandemic era masks, I'd swear the movie had been shot back in 2011. Complementing the bright yet bland visuals is the monotone narration from Elba, whose accent sounds like a South African dying of consumption. As a storyteller, the Djinn really needs more practice on his delivery. The stories are bland enough to begin with, and it certainly doesn't help that Elba's voice will have you dozing off in your seat as he largely just describes what we're seeing on screen.

Three Thousand Years of Longing review

Equally as backwards as the film's visual aesthetic are its regressive attitudes towards women and the Eastern world. Alithea insists she's happy in her world of stories but the film makes it clear that what she really wants is the love of a good man. Ugh, are we really still pushing this outdated notion that women who focus on their careers are just making up for an absence of companionship? Miller is equally patronising to anywhere East of Berlin. Brought to London by Alithea, the Djinn finds himself overwhelmed by the city's electrical fields, which raises the question of whether Miller believes they don't have electricity in Istanbul? And then there's the knuckle-headed racial dynamic, which sees a white woman keep a black man as essentially a slave. Young people like to look back at movies from past decades and mock how backwards their sexual and racial politics are, but Three Thousand Years of Longing is as problematic as the likes of Weird Science and Mannequin. Swapping the genders doesn't make it any less so.

Three Thousand Years of Longing
 is on Prime Video UK now.