I’m no stranger to the djinni narrative when considering my love for One Thousand and One Nights, but as for being as well versed as Dr. Alithea Binnie (Tilda Swinton) in Three Thousand Years of Longing, she has me beat. As a narratologist (an individual who studies tales which impact our perception of culture in the world around us), she knows something that mythologists don’t. This tale is as compelling as Bill Moyers’ interview with Joseph Campbell (Power of Myth), and what’s explored considers why this trope persists to this day. The last work I read was Three Little Wishes, which is a British take on the concept.
In what George Miller deconstructs may well be a Australian verion. He examines the rules for living a fulfilling life over being confined to the mundane. That’s the problem Binnie faces, and when she awakens the Djinni (Idris Elba) in the bottle, what he offers condemns her world view–she knows his kind from literature. And when he tries to rebuff the stereotype, the fun tête-à-tête they have reveals a look of his life and those he’s attempted to make better–if it can be called that. But sadly, he’s been forced to return to the glass container every time.
Both this fire elemental and mortal are unhappy in Three Thousand Years of Longing. Once upon a time, they loved too much, but when it wasn’t meant to be, both found themselves in a prison they made for themselves. I smiled a bit when they form a closeness that isn’t about sexual attraction. Although we see plenty of that during this film with other characters, what these two stars share is something different. To see them partake in the intellectual make for an interesting plot twist. Although the scholar first labelled him a trickster at first, what we discover is that he’s a djinni of another persuasion.
Eventually, they come to respect each other, but I’m left wondering about the moments in the first act. Apparently, other supernatural forces see her as a person of interest. They see something about her which is like a moth to a flame. Either they are spirits of deceased magi or something far more daemonic (in a non Christian sense). Alternatively, they could simply be projections of Djinn himself, but he never said 100% if they are. I’m still wondering why those forces appeared to her and stopped when he finally appeared.
I’ll have to take a look at A. S. Byatt‘s The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye, that this film is based on, to see if there are any answers. Perhaps Miller is planning on a sequel to answer this plot hole. The world he presented suggests the supernatural world is vying to find a place in modern society. However, to live in this modern world will be difficult. The pollution that exists today can kill a spirit, and that’s a detail I feel needs more exposition on.
Just how these spirits flit about needs to be asked. It’s unlike what Australia’s indgienous people know as Jukurrpa (Dreamtime, in Westernized context). Here, animal spirit guides helped shape the land, and these etheric creatures can walk between worlds easily. Just what they mean to humanity suggests that its possible to harmonize between the self, nature and the cosmos. Perhaps that’s a longing Miller is trying to get across. I know this mostly due to my fascination with the lore Down Under.
Unfortunately, this filmmaker’s next project is another entry to the Mad Max franchise and as much as I’d love to see him expand the ideas from Byatt’s book, I suspect this movie is all we have. I like to know more about the theosophy Djinni is trying to preach. Plus, the finale isn’t all that nicely wrapped up. I’m longing for a proper closure to this tale.
3 Wishes Made out of 5