Three Thousand Years of Longing stars Tilda Swinton as a scholar who rubs a magic lamp and meets a Djinn played by Idris Elba. In American parlance, a djinn is a similar to a genie, but Dr. Alithea Binnie (Swinton) knows the Arabic cultural nuances of djinns and suspects that this one might be a trickster. The majority of the film is the Djinn telling the story of his 3,000-year life, attempting to convince Alithea to use her three wishes and set him free.
Director George Miller helmed Mad Max: Fury Road, but Three Thousand Years of Longing is a completely different film. Much of the story rests on the shoulders of the two leads, who deliver excellent performances, and the film’s mediations on the nature of love and life.
Like Mad Max: Fury Road, Three Thousand Years of Longing is a technical achievement. The cinematography by John Seale is at times breath-taking, the production design by Roger Ford brings us to beautiful, lush locales, and the costumes and art direction by Kym Barrett and Sophie Nash respectively are worth remembering during awards season. Too often, after the move to digital, films have looked dull and gray, so it is refreshing to see Three Thousand Years of Longing’s colors pop.
If there’s a problem with Three Thousand Years of Longing it’s that it’s not quite as profound as it thinks it is. The meditations on the nature of love are not amazingly insightful, even though the film feels esoteric in the wispy dialogue and significant looks. There’s also a section of the first act where Dr. Binnie gives a presentation, and within the context of the story, those events do not make sense and aren’t paid off by the end.
Overall, people’s mileage with Three Thousand Years of Longing will vary; it’s entirely possible audiences will find this film to be much more profound and compelling than I did. For that reason, it’s worth giving Three Thousand Years of Longing a try.
3 out of 5 stars.