The Reel Review

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A book-minded scholar visiting Istanbul accidentally unleashes a djinn who grants her three wishes in exchange for his freedom, in this romantic fantasy directed by George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road, Mad Max, Happy Feet) and starring Tilda Swinton and Idris Elba. Doubtful of the authenticity of the giant supernatural spirit and wary of the many dangers associated with the fabled wishes, the scholar questions him, eventually opting for a wish that surprises them both.

Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton in Three Thousand Years of Longing

The screenplay, adapted by Miller and his daughter Augusta Gore from 1994’s The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye, is a fascinating adult fairy tale that ultimately is about the soulful bliss that occurs when surrendering oneself to the prospect of unconditional love. The djinn is a master storyteller, sharing cautionary tales of the various individuals who have both freed and captured him, starting three thousand years ago with the very definition of beauty, the Queen of Sheba.

Ayantu Usman, Aamito Lagum as the Queen of Sheba and Idris Elba in Three Thousand Years of Longing.

Be it concubines seeking financial security, mystical rulers seeking power, or geniuses seeking greater knowledge, the symbolism-laden story is an absolute page-turner, which Miller brings to life with even more spectacular, dazzling visuals. The scene with King Solomon’s self-playing musical instrument is a particular standout, as is the sight of a would-be future ancient ruler and his harem of exceptionally large concubines. Three Thousand Years of Longing is an epic, thought-provoking tale featuring career-defining performances from both Swinton and Elba.

REEL FACTS

• Cinematographer John Seale came out of retirement a second time to shoot this movie. His prior return was for George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road.

This 713 BC relief of a djinn is on the north wall of the Palace of King Sargon II at the Fortress of Sargon in present day Khorsabad, Iraq.

• The mythology of the invisible, supernatural bottle-dwelling djinn – or in the Western world, a genie – dates back to the pre-Islamic world of the seventh century BC.

• Three Thousand Years of Longing was shot entirely in Australia, which doubled for London and Istanbul due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

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