“Three Thousand Years of Longing” is a celebration of storytelling


Photo courtesy of MGM

“Mad Max” filmmaker George Miller returns with a unique take on storytelling. “Three Thousand Years of Longing” hit theaters August 26, 2022.

Ian Lloyd, Staff Writer

George Miller is a filmmaker with quite a peculiar career. He began by making the “Mad Max” films and solidifying himself as a master of action cinema. Afterward, he went toward other genres like comedy, drama and eventually family films like “Babe: Pig in the City” and “Happy Feet.”

It was quite a surprise when he returned with “Mad Max: Fury Road,” returning to action cinema as though he had never left. It has now been seven years since, and Miller’s newest film, “Three Thousand Years of Longing,” goes in yet another unexpected direction.

During a trip abroad in Istanbul, British literary scholar Alithea (Tilda Swinton) accidentally releases an ancient being known as a Djinn (Idris Elba) from his prison in a bottle. He offers her three wishes for his freedom, and Alitea becomes wary of that amount of power. 

The Djinn shares his stories of ages long past, about others he gave wishes to and even more bottle trappings. Alithea has spent her whole life seeking out the world’s stories. Faced with these tales of longing, she must look deeper into herself to find what she truly desires.

Tilda Swinton plays Alithea, a British literary scholar who accidentally unleashes an ancient being. (Photo courtesy of MGM)

This film is not fast-paced or action-packed like the trailers or Miller’s previous films might have you believe. It is a modern fairytale. Two characters sit in a room for the majority of the runtime and talk about stories. It might not be the summer blockbuster most would have wanted, but it delivers a wholly unique story that is engaging from start to finish.

Most of the stories come from Djinn, who explains his entrapment in hopes of convincing Alithea that his wishes are not a trick. The flashback sequences are stunning and extremely easy to get absorbed in. Each feels distinct in its ancient period without feeling disjointed from the others.

They depict figures of history like the Queen of Sheba and Ibrahim the Mad, as well as a few unknown individuals, lost to time. Every segment gives us all of these interesting characters, but they all end tragically for Djinn, either by another entrapment, heartbreak, or both. 

While the various tales are all engaging and wonderful to watch, the main story between the Djinn and Alithea is just as delightful. Alithea has convinced herself she is more than content with being alone and studying texts, but after each story, her desire for love and warmth grows. 

Alithea (Tilda Swinton) listens to enchanting stories from the Djinn (Idris Elba). (Photo courtesy of MGM)

This isn’t a story about wishes. As discussed by the characters, wishes are only used in stories for jokes or cautionary tales. This is a story about stories. It’s about the stories we tell ourselves to get through rough times and the stories we tell others to find a sense of belonging and purpose.

Admittedly, this film asks a lot of the audience and might seem too boring or subdued. It definitely isn’t the crowd-pleaser “Mad Max: Fury Road” was, but it’s an experience that feels timeless and unique. For those who love telling stories, or those who can’t help but get lost in fiction, this is a movie for you. 

As an absolute treat that ended this summer, “Three Thousand Years of Longing” gets a nine out of 10.

There is a lot of great modern cinema, but one cannot help but feel like most of it has become one and the same. “Three Thousand Years of Longing” is a completely fresh cinematic experience that diverts from the usual trends of this day and age. It is a timeless story that will come to be more appreciated with age.