“THREE THOUSAND YEARS OF LONGING”
Starring Tilda Swinton, Idris Elba
Directed by George Miller
Screenplay by George Miller and Augusta Gore
Based on the short story “The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye” by A. S. Byatt
Produced by George Miller and Doug Mitchell
Cinematography by John Seale
Edited by Margaret Sixel
Music by Tom Holkenborg
By Matt Neufeld
George Miller’s fantastic, fantastical fantasy film “Three Thousand Years of Longing” is easily the best film released so far in 2022–and it’s an instant classic.
The film is also George Miller’s best film–and that’s saying something.
And the film is also simply one of the best fantasy films in recent years–and that’s saying something, too, since there’s been a plethora of quality fantasy films in the past five to ten years, of course.
“Three Thousand of Longing,” Miller’s latest masterwork, ably, confidently and masterfully manages to be everything that filmgoers want, and desperately need, at the movies today: an intelligent, inventive, fresh, wildly creative, well-written, well-directed, well-produced and well-acted achievement that should be seen only in a real movie theater; a film that fulfills what true cinema should deliver on every level; and a film that truly does feel excitedly original and creative despite drawing inspiration from, yes, a familiar tale and premise that even the most casual moviegoer and fantasy fan will recognize from a thousand, nay, three thousand perhaps, previous books, legends, stories, plays, television shows and movies.
“Three Thousand Years of Longing” is beautiful, intelligent, intellectual even, mesmerizing, elegant, stylish, engaging, moving, insightful, wondrous, mystical, magical and an instant master class in masterful filmmaking.
Although Miller, 77, who directed, co-wrote and co-produced “Three…,” has a resume and a catalogue of continually exceptional work directing, writing and producing in film and television that stretches back to 1971–that’s fifty-one years ago, to you and me–it’s positively fascinating–and a cause for celebration–to see this talented filmmaker release his best film so far down the line into his career. There is indeed something to be said for seasoned, knowledgeable experience–and dedicated perseverance!
However, it’s no surprise. Miller has repeatedly demonstrated his disparate, entertaining, talented skill in a range of films and television shows in a range of styles and genres. Of course, Miller directed all four Mad Max films, plus “Lorenzo’s Oil,” “The Witches of Eastwick,” “Happy Feet,” “Babe: Pig in the City,” the “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” segment of “Twilight Zone: The Movie” and the cinematic documentary film “40,000 Years of Dreaming,” and, he wrote and produced “Babe.”
However, it seems that all of the years of all of the collective inspiration Miller has demonstrated in his years of filmmaking have grandly come together as a type of grand career lifetime of achievement accomplishment with “Three Thousand Years of Longing.” Everything is here, and it’s all so stylishly, elegantly demonstrated and displayed by Miller, you can feel the veteran filmmaker’s pure joy of storytelling, and filmic storytelling, that joy jumps from screen straight into the filmgoer’s heart.
Tilda Swinton delivers yet another enchanting, strong and confident performance in “Three…” as the individualistic, intelligent, yet somewhat sadly sad-sack solitary and lovelorn scholar Alithea Binnie. Strong, smart and confident, despite her solitary nature, Alithea attends a work conference in Istanbul and, through some extraordinary supernatural occurrences, lo and beholden, she visits an antiques shop and buys an ancient container that has held an equally-ancient djinn, or genie, for ages too long to count or consider. Back in her hotel room, she frees the genie, and he is grateful and beholden to her. And, of course, he grants her three wishes that are smartly bound by several hard-fast rules–most importantly, the wishes must genuinely be representative of Alithea’s true, honest, deepest heart’s desire.
However, this genie, referred to only as the Djinn, turns out to be not your ordinary, average, everyday filmic genie of overly-familar fantasy story cliches and tropes and conventions. Gallantly, eloquently, stylishly and even rogueishly played by Idris Elba–in the best performance of his career, by the way–Djinn is an otherworldly being of complex, layered, deep and experienced emotions, insight, knowledge, class and even a bit of regal bearing.
He is easily one of the most complex, fascinating, interesting and inventive genies filmgoers are likely to see anywhere on screen. Elba gives Djinn a deep, intelligent, human touch, a most human existence, despite Djinn’s overbearing supernatural reality. The intersections of Djinn’s human and supernatural emotions–just like the same conflicts displayed by thousands of other tortured beings throughout popular culture– resonate just as strongly as those same inner conflicts displayed by any classic creature, whether it’s Frankenstein’s monster, Dracula, the Wolfman, the Invisible Man, Superman, Spider-Man, Darkman, Wonder Woman, Gandalf, Bilbo, Frodo, Harry Potter, Yoda, the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, any superhero, or, as noted, thousands of others battling the same conflicting emotions and worlds in time and space.
This conflict between human nature and the call of the supernatural wild is as old and worn and cliched as anything, but, due mostly to the over-arching originality and inventiveness of the clever, never-cliched and deeply emotional script by Miller and Augusta Gore, this familiar conflict just shines–and carries the movie on a high level–in “Three..” Djinn is not only a conflicted, emotionally tortured soul, he finds himself increasingly drawn to his new master and soulmate, Alithea. And that’s not really giving anything away–the deepening, developing relationship between Djinn and Alithea–two lost souls swimming around in the fishbowl of life, destined to find each other–is, along with some amazing stories that Djinn tells Alithea about his long, troubled but fascinating life, the basis of the story, the backstory, the plot and the movie itself.
So moviegoers suddenly find themselves travelling back in time through the millennia as Djinn tells his fun, entertaining, action- and adventure-packed tales of wonder and woe to an increasingly moved and beguiled Alithea.
And what tales! Full of wizards and witches, spellweavers and dreamweavers, gods and demons, kings and queens, inventors and creators, creatures and monsters, heroes and villians, and all types of worldly and otherworldly beings, Djinn’s stories are at once thrilling, enchanting, mesmerizing–and disheartening, heartbreaking and soul-crushing. Djinn’s stories, which, as noted, also form the foundation as the movie’s concurrent main story, are a continual wonderland of pure fantasy escapism. And Elba just revels in telling them.
Miller and Gore based their excellent screenplay on a short story by A. S. Byatt, “The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye,” but surely Miller and Gore brought much more to their movie story. And it’s all there up on the screen, full of ravishing, eye-catching, often-beautiful production, art, set and make-up and costume design, all bolstered by accompanying dazzling and state-of-the-art special and visual effects. There are scenes, sets and creatures that are breathtaking in their visual presentation. The production, art and set design, and the special effects, bedazzle, dazzle and thrill throughout the film.
And, as noted, Miller’s strong, confident, assured direction holds everything together. Miller knows how to tell a story, he knows how to weave strong visuals directly with the story, without the visuals being gratuitous, he knows how to handle action and adventure, and he always gets the best acting performances from his players. Swinton and Elba not only rise to Miller’s high standards and deliver strong performances, but there is a genuine, strong chemistry between them and between Djinn and Alithea. To watch as these two somewhat-lost souls, one human and one supernatural genie, endeavor to break free from their bonds of solitude and develop a real, emotional relationship, is emotional, moving, reassuring, uplifting–and entertaining.
“Three thousand Years of Longing” is exactly the beautiful, mesmerizing and enchanting film that moviegoers need as a turbulent, stormy–literally and metaphorically–August and traditional summer season of 2022 come to an end. Go see this movie during this final weekend of August and enjoy escaping into several worlds, layers and lands of movie and storytelling magic and enchantment.
Alas, in our real-life, waking world, we may not be as fortunate as Alithea and we may not discover a genie and we may not be granted three supernatural wishes to magically, eternally fulfill our heart’s desire, but we can often fulfill many of our more down-to-earth desires and wishes and achieve some levels of magic and enchantment, if only fleetingly. If one of those wishes is to enjoy a magical, enchanting, beautiful film in a comfortable, air-conditioned, darkened movie theater for a few waning summer hours, then we can at least fulfill that wish by taking the time to escape into the mystical, wondrous worlds of “Three Thousand Years of Longing.”