It took me a good few minutes of introduction to Three Thousand Years Of Longing, George Miller‘s slightly off-kilter fantasy take on A. S. Byatt short story “The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye” to figure out I am not watching what could be called family-friendly fare. Much like a fairground ride, it has its moments of pure aesthetic pleasure, and a few joyful, exhilarating dives into childhood wonder, retold with an adulthood hue, but then it also has the bumpy bits in-between where one can spot the wheels of entertainment churning — a joy-ride built to bring not much else but sheer fun.
A gloriously deadpan Tilda Swinton is Alithea Binnie, a low-key solitary Scottish narratologist, with raging psychic capabilities, which might be merely flights of fancy, who, while in Istanbul on storytelling business purchases a candy-coloured bottle at a bazaar and, unsurprisingly, unleashes an ancient djinn within. The demon itself is played with wry self-deprecating humour by an amused Idris Elba.
Alithea’s genie in a bottle, like all genies do, offers her to make three wishes that he must fulfil in order regain his eternal freedom, but she is well ahead of that game, as deconstructing stories is what she does for a living — and none of the ilk end well.
Also, to her dismay, Alithea finds out that she does not really know what her heart would truly desire. At which point the exasperated djinn decides to entice her with his millennia-spanning life story, kicking off with the time he fell in lust with the Queen Of Sheba.
It’s an odd, uneven, slightly unhinged piece of classic storytelling — and while it is visually luscious and bursting with (narrative) calories, it did not seem to make up its mind, to its very end, which genre, and indeed audience age-group, it actually belongs to.
Author: ©Milana Vujkov