The transcendent romance in Three Thousand Years of Longing never reaches true fiery heights, but perhaps that is the beauty the movie is aiming for.
Three Thousand Years of Longing Synopsis
Convinced that succumbing to desire would lead to no good, narratologist Alithea Binnie did the unimaginable. She rejects the three wishes offered by the Djinn she unknowingly freed. Desperate to fulfil his duty so as to earn his freedom, the Djinn then shares with Alithea the tragic stories of his past loves. Would the fiery being be able to move Alithea into embrace her desires? Or would he end up once again forgotten and imprisoned in a bottle?
Based on A.S. Byatt’s The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye, Three Thousand Years of Longing has several shiny tags affixed to it. George Miller, John Seale, and of course, Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton, two of Britain’s most reliable showbiz names.
These names alone assure you that the movie, whatever the quality of story adaptation, is worth one’s time. In that sense, the mythical, Arabian Nights-like segments are indeed sumptuous visual feasts. Some professional reviews, such as that by The Guardian, criticised these chapters as “sterile” and “synthetic,” but to me, I thought that was the point.
A core concern of the story is the truth of things and we never know for sure whether the Djinn is completely telling the truth, in his desperation to convince a wary Alithea to embrace her desires. These surreal moments possibly reflect Alithea’s scepticism. Her wonder too.
And even if the Djinn was telling the truth, he could have been so befuddled by his own devotions and tragedies that nothing quite comes out fully convincing.
What I’m saying is, these lush, unreal flashbacks add to the wonder of the stories. They were, to me, the splendour of the show. The energy
As for Elba and Swinton, elegant and mesmerising as their exchanges are, I feel they never quite achieved the sort of fiery passion necessary for the framing story to come alive. (In contrast, the Turkish protagonists of the Djinn’s tales absolutely sweep you up with their depictions) That said, again, this might not be a flaw. It might even be intentional.
A committedly withdrawn scholar, Swinton’s Alithea is not immune to passion but she does possess a more introspective, cautious view of love. As an immortal being repeatedly betrayed by his beloveds, the Djinn has perhaps also accepted the need to, what’s the phrase, “take things slow.”
I find myself unsatisfied, even mildly baffled, by the concluding London chapter. But alongside these, I also agree that any romance more fervent or explicit would likely feel more synthetic than the enthusiastic CGI.
Needless to say, as a devoted world mythology fan, I was deeply thrilled by the expository moments on the purpose/power of stories too. While these don’t neatly tie in with the other themes of Three Thousand Years of Longing, they are still sweet delight. Much like that irresistible snack that the Djinn serves at every opportunity.
Check out my other snappy movie reviews.