Directed by: George Miller
Premise: A literary scholar (Tilda Swinton) unleashes a djinn (Idris Elba) from his lamp. He offers her three wishes and tells his life story.
What Works: As a matter of technical prowess and craftsmanship, Three Thousand Years of Longing is frequently astonishing. The set design, costuming, and visual effects create a vividly realized world. There are lots of great details embedded in each scene, especially those taking place in the ancient world. Three Thousand Years of Longing is also well shot and deftly edited with some great scene transitions. The best scenes of Three Thousand Years of Longing are the flashbacks in which the djinn recalls his life and how circumstances have brought him to the present moment. This is where the filmmakers let their imaginations loose and the stories of desire and palace intrigue are compelling. The movie also thinks through the nature of the djinn’s existence and how his molecular makeup would differ from a human being. There is a lot of thought put into the world building and this gives the film a rich texture.
What Doesn’t: Three Thousand Years of Longing runs into trouble whenever it returns to the modern world. The film is intended to be a love story between this solitary bookish woman and the magical djinn. When she first unleashes the djinn from his bottle the visuals are fantastic but her reactions are far too restrained. As the professor, Tilda Swinton doesn’t seem nearly as surprised or bewildered as she ought to be. As the djinn tells his story, this mortal woman and the immortal djinn are supposed to bond and fall in love. This is never credible. That is partly a fault of the storytelling. He shares his life story with her but that’s not enough to create a meaningful romance. His tales have no bearing on her life or professional interests. The flashbacks come across self-contained and disconnected from the frame story. There is no obstacle keeping these two apart. They don’t have to fight for their companionship so there is nothing really at stake. Another problem is the casting. There is little romantic heat between actors Tilda Swinton and Idris Elba. By the end they come across as old friends but nothing more than that. Three Thousand Years of Longing is very talky. The film explains a lot to us and despite the efforts of two very fine actors all of that talk just isn’t very engaging.
Bottom Line: Three Thousand Years of Longing has great technical merit. It is a beautiful looking film but there isn’t much contained within it. The picture comes across as a hollow exercise in style.
Episode: #916 (September 4, 2022)