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Three Thousand Years of Longing
Australia/U.S.A. 2022

Opening 1 Sep 2022

Directed by: George Miller
Writing credits: George Miller, Augusta Gore, A.S. Byatt
Principal actors: Tilda Swinton, Idris Elba, Pia Thunderbolt, Berk Ozturk, Anthony Moisset

Three Thousand Years of Longing is a romantic fantasy movie from Australian filmmaker George Miller (Mad Max franchise, Babe [1995], Happy Feet [2006], The Witches of Eastwick [1987]) based upon the short story The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye written by English novelist, poet, and Booker Prize winner A. S. Byatt. A djinn or genie is an invisible spirit, or a fictional magical creature believed to inhabit the earth and appearing in the form of humans or animals.

Alithea Binnie (Tilda Swinton), a dedicated British professor of narratology—the science of storytelling and narrative structure—is traveling to Istanbul for a speaking engagement on her science. Alone in a hotel room, she accidentally opens a glass bottle that she has chosen earlier during a tour in a bazaar. Jumping out of the bottle, an enormous Djinn (Idris Elba) suddenly occupies the entire room; he can also disappear, instantly. The presence of the Djinn comes as a curious but not uninteresting surprise to the academic who is accustomed to a solitary life in the company of written words, forming stories on a page but never taking a physical form. This time, the genie is out of the bottle and the Djinn offers Alithea three wishes in exchange for his freedom. At first, she refuses as she knows all the stories about wishes that went wrong. As a skeptic researcher, she then engages into a very long conversation with the creature she is used to define as a trope in her studies. However, determined to be finally released from his long imprisonment and ascend to a superior Djinn existence, the spirit starts telling Alithea about his various lives, his love story with the Queen of Sheba, and other stories of adventures and incarcerations. Eventually, the professor makes a surprising wish, which will take them both happily in another experimental life.

In this movie, Miller mixes a contemporary life with magic and exotic images, including some erotic scenes, which are able to really carry the spectator away. Unfortunately, at times the movie meanders and instills some doubts as regards its ultimate purpose: an escape to everyday life, or a fantastic satire of everyday life supposed to wake us up, sleepy human beings. Whatever! The willingness to invite the spectator’s imagination to alternate between dream and reality is worth all the effort to overexploit themes and supernatural events and produce marvelous fantastic scene plans. (Brigitte Bernard-Rau)

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