Almost ten years ago, director George Miller released what would become known as his masterpiece with 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road. Since then, Miller has taken a long hiatus, with rumors of a Fury sequel popping up every few months. Road’.
Seemingly out of nowhere about three months ago, a trailer for his latest film, titled Three Thousand Years of Longing, appeared. For many fans, this came as a surprise, as the film had very little marketing build-up and was quickly screened on the festival circuit after its first trailer.
While it may not have been the Mad Max sequel fans were waiting for, the film seemed perfectly in keeping with Miller’s notoriously eccentric style. His various zigs and zags are often cited as one of the strangest careers in Hollywood. Miller directed all four Mad Max films, arguably the most successful and well-known, which launched his career in the late 1970s.
Since then he has also directed The Witches of Eastwick, Babe: The Pig in Town and the two Merry Feet films. To say Miller has had an interesting career would be an understatement. The Mad Max films are known for their high-tension, post-apocalyptic and violent action, while his other films are mostly light-hearted children’s films.
Not one to be shackled by preconceived notions or expectations, Miller took another detour with Three Thousand Years, a romantic/fantasy film that is a love letter to fairy tales and myths.
It might seem like a departure from his previous work, but it’s really something only Miller could pull off, and it’s turned out to be one of the most original films of the year.
It stars Idris Elba, who has had one of the busiest periods of his career, his fourth major role this year alone. Elba plays a Genie (or Genie) who has been released from his bottle by our second lead, played by Tilda Swinton. She plays Alithea, a scientist and writer who lives a life of solitude as she ages, with no family or connections to speak of.
She inadvertently releases the genie from his bottle, where he has been trapped for hundreds of years. He offers her three wishes, but in her contented life she can’t think of anything to wish for. The rest of the film then follows Alithea and Gina as they exchange stories about their pasts, trying to find what she desires through long flashbacks, most of which take place in the ancient Near East, following accounts of common folklore and fairy tales , told from Jin’s point of view as a fly on the wall.
The film excels at these chapters of the genies’ past, with stories and settings that feel equal parts authentic and fantastical. The set design is one of the most unique examples I’ve seen in years and complements Miller’s eclectic style perfectly.
The stories being told are deeply human, with tales of love and betrayal that everyone can relate to, and the film isn’t afraid to include mythical creatures and magical powers. Most of these stories feature characters who are widely known in previous folklore and history, including the Queen of Sheba and the Sultans of the Ottoman Empire.
At its core, the film is about the different relationships and types of love that one can experience in a lifetime. Each tale centers around a Jinn or Alithea falling in love during their lives and how it has since informed who they are today.
The film’s third act, while still highly emotional, felt a bit rushed. It would have been preferable to see a more gradual progression between Jin and Alithea’s relationship, but it felt like it was gone before you could really think about it. Where the film lands in its final moments is really perfect, but with ideas about themes that can be quite complex, it might be something that would benefit from multiple viewings.
“Three Thousand Years” is a highly hypnotic experience using many psychedelic aesthetic solutions while blurring the lines between reality and fantasy. This is a film that works more on atmosphere and mood than strict plot structure, although the stories told throughout are still highly compelling.
The camera complements this by literally blurring the edges of the screen at times to great effect. It follows through these fantastical locations with precision and movement that makes you feel as if you are trapped in these locations with the Genie himself.
Three Thousand Years is also about storytelling and how it brings us together with joy, sadness and allows us to better understand the people we care about, or even those we may never have met.
Elba and Swinton give powerful performances that are extremely vulnerable and delicate, while carrying a level of gravitas that has made them consistently excellent throughout their careers. Their chemistry on screen is palpable and really sells the love story that ties everything together.
The music by Tom Holkenborg also helps carry the films themes, enhancing the more intense sequences but also supporting the gentle ones. He uses instruments from ancient Middle Eastern music while mixing it with more modern sounds, electronic and orchestral.
Overall, Three Thousand Years of Longing is one of the best films of the year so far. Concentrating George Miller’s unique voice and aesthetic into a story that may seem familiar, but is still unlike anything before it. It may seem a little strange or obscure to some audiences, but once you immerse yourself in the world it creates, it’s an extraordinary experience.
Staff reporter Zayden Dennis can be reached at [email protected] and you can find his other reviews at letterboxd.com/Zadenator. To keep up with all your Southern Illinois news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.