Is waiting for ‘Three Thousand Years of Longing’ worth it?

Published September 22, 2022, 8:52 AM

by Rica Arevalo

Tilda Swinton and Idris Elba show love in ageless tales

Mad Max franchise director George Miller is back combining romance, drama, and fantasy in Three Thousand Years of Longing, adopting the short story, The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye by A.S. Byatt. It is a visual enchantment of supernatural and natural beings in different time periods. 

‘Three Thousand Years of Longing’ movie poster

Alithea Binnie played by the wonderful Tilda Swinton is a famous scholar of the art of storytelling. Yes, she is a “narratologist.” Her latest speaking engagement in Istanbul turned her contented life upside down. She buys a glass bottle at an antique bazaar for a souvenir. Soon, the genie in the bottle becomes real! He is called the Djinn played by the convincing Idris Elba.

What are Alithea’s heart’s desires? The Djinn wants to know. None. “What if I made no wish?” she asks. Loveless, happy, and pleased in all aspects of her life, she wants to give the three wishes to other people. 

Tilda Swinton and Idris Elba

The Djinn tells her how he is trapped in the bottle. He fell in love with the Queen of Sheba (Aamito Lagum) but there was King Solomon (Nicolas Mouawad) who won over her heart by delivering all of the Queen’s difficult requests. Solomon trapped the Djinn in the bottle so he could have the Queen all to himself.

The Djinn was in the Red Sea for 2,500 thousand years before Gülten (Ece Yüksel), a concubine, fell in love with Mustafa (Matteo Bocelli), King Suleiman’s son.  Gülten wanted to have a baby with her Prince. The King became paranoid, thinking Mustafa wanted his throne and ordered his beloved son killed. 

The Djinn wanted the pregnant Gülten to make her final wish so he could help her but upon Suleiman’s orders, she did not survive. The Djinn patiently stayed in the bottle for the next 100 years.

Tilda Swinton as Alithea Binnie

Enter the brothers Murad IV and Ibrahim who once again failed to give freedom to the Djinn when Ibrahim’s lover Sugar Plump (Anna Adams) got so scared seeing the Djiin that she wished him to return to the bottle and sea.  

The Djinn’s last chance is with Zefir (Burcu Gölgedar), a young wife of an old Turkish merchant who gave her the bottle as a love token. She longed for knowledge which the Djinn granted. He grew to love her but she felt imprisoned by his presence and wished she never met him. 

All the tales that the Djinn shared are full of lust and violence. Now, he is with Alithea asking for the desires of her heart. It takes a long time before our heroine decides on her wishes. “I’m here to love you,” she confesses. “And I wish for you to love me in return.”

The Djinn is dumbfounded. “I want our solitudes to be together,” she adds. Is Alithea’s desire too much to ask for? The Djinn has no choice. 

Still from ‘Three Thousand Years of Longing’ movie

Back in London after a terrifying X-ray machine incident, the two are back in each other’s arms. Like an ordinary couple, they date, make love with, and care for each other. But the supernatural being, the Djinn, finds it difficult to live in and adapt to an environment so different from his life. True love comes when Alithea lets him go where he belongs—his realm.

Three Thousand Years of Longing premiered at the Cannes Film Festival last May. It is now showing in local cinemas.

 
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