Dream with a genie in “3,000 Years of Longing”
Published 11:46 am Tuesday, September 20, 2022
By Evan Fitch
Coming to life this week at Tryon Theatre is “3000 Years of Longing,” a boldly imaginative and visually sumptuous cinematic feast, conceived by the visionary and maniacal mind of Frank Miller. Miller, creator of the “Mad Max” universe, helms this film as the director and the scribe of the screenplay, adapting A.S. Blyatt’s short story, “The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye” (1994).
This film tells the story of a djinn (the more linguistically appropriate form of “genie”), who, through happenstance, gains a new master in the modern day, and in an attempt to gain this master’s trust, the djinn relays his life story, across 3000 years of service and solitude.
The djinn at the center of this story is played by the ever-magnetic and ageless Idris Elba, an actor well suited to the portrayal of a supernatural eternal. He plays opposite the film’s protagonist, Alithea Binnie, as played by the similarly ageless and captivating Tilda Swinton. Elba’s character is aptly, if not comically named, Djinn, who through an act of chance becomes indebted to the service of Alithea. Alithea is a career academic, someone who has found meaning and purpose in defining her life through her work and achievements, leaving relationships to wilt and wither by the wayside.
When Alithea finds herself in Istanbul for a work trip, she purchases a curio by which she hopes to remember her travels. Unbeknownst to her, this small bottle contains a djinn, and upon arriving at her hotel, she inadvertently unleashes the powerful being contained within. The Djinn, as he manifests in a booming voice and crackling energy, terrifies Alithea, who remains nonetheless concerned about his nature when she comes to appreciate his true identity. Alithea does not see her potential wishes as a gift, but as a curse. She perceives Djinn as a trickster, one who would deceive and punish her in the “fulfillment” of her wishes. This tension between a djinn offering their wishes and their master denying their services is the catalyst for this film, a film that is ultimately concerned with the question and exploration of narrative.
Hoping to sway Alithea’s opinion in his favor, Djinn regales her with three consecutive stories from his 3,000 years of granting wishes. These stories vary greatly in setting, both locale and time, covering the rule of King Solomon through to the 19th century. Across these varied stories, there remain unifying themes of Djinn’s service. He truly does wish to serve his masters, but can only give them what they believe they want, a rule that inevitably leads to dissatisfaction. Moreover, Djinn repeatedly reveals himself to be more mortal in his emotions than his supernatural qualities would belay. Djinn cannot help himself from falling in love with many of his masters, masters who inevitably abandon or punish him for his inability to make them happy, despite his seemingly omnipotent power.
In an effort to not spoil the film, the exact details of these stories, and Alithea’s response to them, shall have to be a reward for those filmgoers, who like Alithea, make themselves an audience to Djinn’s 3,000 years of existence. So please join us for this imaginative tale, and decide for yourself if Djinn is to be trusted.