Three Thousand Years of Longing is a 2022 fantasy romantic drama film directed by George Miller and starring Tilda Swinton and Idris Elba. Miller wrote the screenplay with Augusta Gore, adapting the 1994 short story “The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye” by A. S. Byatt.
S P O I L E R S
The premise of Three Thousand Years of Longing follows British scholar Alithea Binnie (Swinton) who discovers an exotic bottle and frees the Djinn (Idris Elba) trapped in the bottle. The Djinn offers to grant Binnie three wishes, to which she responds negatively, not trusting the Djinn’s intentions. To allay her fears, the Djinn tells her the stories behind the three times he had been trapped inside a bottle.
Thus, Three Thousand Years of Longing can also be viewed as an anthology of short stories with the framing device of Binnie discovering the Djinn in present day. In each of stories, the Djinn is often betrayed by the desires of others – usually women that he had fallen in love with – intentionally or otherwise.
The first story involves the Djinn’s cousin, the legendary Queen of Sheba who is being wooed by King Solomon. The Djinn’s second story centers on Gülten, a young concubine in the palace of Suleiman the Magnificent. After finding the Djinn’s bottle, Gülten wishes for Suleiman’s son, Mustafa, to fall in love with her and subsequently wishes to bear his child. Unfortunately for The Djinn, both Mustapha and Gülten are killed and since she did not make her third wish, the Djinn is lost in limbo.
In the Djinn’s final story, he tells of Zefir, the young wife of a Turkish merchant, who is gifted the bottle after it is recovered in the mid-19th Century. Zefir wishes first for knowledge, which the Djinn grants in the form of literature, and later to perceive the world as djinns do. As with the other stories, this also ends in tragedy. Binnie is so moved by the Djinn’s final story that she wishes that they fall in love. Nothing truly spectacular happens after they move together to London but considering the trend of the previous stories, once more this ends in tears and their romance is doomed.
Definitely, Elba’s Djinn is the more intriguing character – being immortal, he possesses great insight and wisdom but is somewhat ruled by his desires still, which lead to his downfall. Swinton’s Binnie is rather two-dimensional, her actions throughout are predictable from a seemingly independent woman, apparently content with her lot. Of course, that veneer is soon revealed to be a false front.
The Final Analysis
Three Thousand Years of Longing is engaging for almost two-thirds of its duration but once the Djinn has finished his three stories, his relationship with Binnie seems mundane in comparison and the third act limps on without any climax or strong resolution and it leads to a dissatisfying conclusion. That said, the three stories of the Djinn were fun to watch and to be immersed in. Still worth watching for that reason alone.
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