Director: George Miller
Writers: George Miller, Augusta Gore, A.S. Byatt
Stars: Tilda Swinton, Idris Elba, Pia Thunderbolt
A bittersweet modern fairy tale from one of cinema’s most bombastic virtuosos, George Miller’s “Three Thousand Years of Longing” might have some reservations about the 21st century: The film often struggles with the impact that science and technology could take on our old sense of wonder. — but at the bottom of this hermetically bottled epic lies a question that should especially resonate with people who have spent far too many of the past 3,000 days cooped up in their homes with nothing but “content” to keep them company: Are the stories enough? to satisfy our lives?
Acclaimed storyteller Dr. Alithea Binnie would like to think she does. Once upon a time she was married to a handsome academic, but when that jerk left her for someone younger, she learned to make peace with her loneliness. Being alone, without a partner, without parents, without children, gives a brilliant mind like hers the freedom she needs to flourish.
In fact, Alithea is so content with her situation that she can’t think of anything to ask for when a huge, shirtless Djinn with a long, long obsession with fulfilling women’s deepest desires walks into her Istanbul hotel room: the same hotel room in Istanbul where Agatha Christie wrote “Murder on the Orient Express” and offers her three wishes. Even with an orange-flecked goatee and a pair of pointed goblin ears that are always on fire, a half-naked Idris Elba the size of a school bus would probably be enough to leave many people feeling like they only have one wish left. . But Alithea is not moved.
That is, until the Djinn begins to delight the skeptical narratologist with flowery and melancholy stories about the Queen of Sheba, the slave girls of Suleiman the Magnificent, and all the other beauties that defined his journey through the millennia.
More to the point, this is still the same guy whose most recent movie was “Mad Max: Fury Road.” The same guy who once shot a biodrama about a boy who dies of a degenerative brain disorder with the zany energy of a Ken Russell musical, and turned the sequel to a beloved family movie about a talking pig into a magically deranged adventure that begins with Babe almost. murdering James Cromwell and then taking him to a hostile town full of poodle whores, homicidal chimpanzees, and a very deranged Mickey Rooney. George Miller could find more cinema in a single hotel minibar than some contemporary directors could squeeze out of an entire galaxy far, far away, and he manages to do just that without unbalancing the delicate soul of two-handed intimacy that drive here.
Maximalistic in its mediativity and meditative in its maximalism, “Three Thousand Years of Longing” seems to beg for a scale on a par with similarly lavish epics like “Cloud Atlas” and “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” but Miller’s film can’t. allowing himself to grow so large that his various stories overshadow the purpose of telling them. The result is a movie that splits the difference between “Arabian Nights” and “Good Luck to You, Leo Grande,” as the script features frequent (but super-cheap) asides from the haunted Ifrit palaces of ancient Yemen or lined sex saber the prisons of the Ottoman Empire are never far from Tilda Swinton listening in her terry cloth robe; the film is not necessarily calm, but it always seeks a kind of lasting serenity that Miller’s films have never sought before.