It’s hard not to root for a movie like Three thousand years of desire. George Miller has long been one of our more adventurous and tonally diverse filmmakers, so his take on romantic fantasy is a tantalizing proposition, and the writer-director (with co-writer Augusta Gore) certainly doesn’t disappoint with his latest on the scene. quirks and compelling aesthetics. The film is so distinctly and uniquely its own that it’s tempting to praise it on that basis alone, to consider it lofty for the simple virtue of being just itself. But Three thousand years of desire sadly, it undermines its own effectiveness as a singular piece, presenting less as a unified author-director vision than a dispersed collection of motifs, philosophies, and themes looking for a backbone to hold them together.
Tilda Swinton plays Alithea, a narratologist and literary scholar who is completely content with a life of solitude and academic study. During a presentation at a literary conference in Istanbul, she discovers a beautiful bottle that she takes back to her hotel room, but there she finds a Djinn (Idris Elba). The Djinn insists that Alithea make three wishes for the greatest desires of her heart, but the supposedly contented scholar is not only devoid of sufficient desires, but also wary of the possible consequences of her wishes. Her objections prompted the Djinn to tell her stories of his long and varied life, exploring through dramatic flashbacks how wishes did and did not improve the lives of his previous masters, as well as the impact those experiences had on the Djinn themselves.
Those captivated by the frenetic tone of the film’s marketing may be surprised to discover Three thousand years to be a rather gloomy, mostly melancholic affair. Miller’s unusual sense of humor is certainly ever-present, as is the filmmaker’s penchant for distinctive visual iconography — exemplified by surreal imagery based on Middle Eastern myth and history — but the film is mostly content with a moody collection of vignettes. . The stories of the Djinn, which lie somewhere between anthology and philosophy reading, are often reflective, sometimes devastating and always tinged with a lingering attitude of sadness. In some ways this is a strength, as the film finds itself in this mythical space between straightforward narrative conventions and metatextual analysis, commenting on itself even if it adheres more to the fabric of the folkloric tradition than to the modern conventions of the cinematic. act structure.
But it’s just so disheartening for the film’s efforts to be so transparently self-reflexive, to be so devoted to so many intertwined themes that it never coalesces into a film worthy of the arcs of its individual narratives. The Djinn ponders the follies of a previous master’s misguided pursuit of happiness no matter the consequences, his own damn fate as an incorporeal ghost, and the love of a fiercely intelligent woman trapped in the prejudices of her time. Each story is compelling in its own right, but they do not adequately convey the bittersweet tenor of the Djinn’s time among mortals, nor do they fully complement each other. The nature of empathy and love; the traditions of stories and why we tell them; the deconstruction of common myths of wishingto make; the desperate need for interpersonal connection, even through an immortal eternity: these are all meditated on by Alithea and the Djinn, but never come to satisfactory conclusions through their rumination, no discernible purpose beyond the idea that these are conversations to be had.
This is largely a failure of the frame story in which Alithea and the Djinn converse, who can sometimes stumble from story to story with stilted dialogue. And while Swinton and Elba both deliver excellent performances that fathom the depths of their respective characters, Swinton comes out significantly worse as a character driven by plotted necessity rather than perceptible motivation. This isn’t such a big deal when she’s primarily a sounding board for the Djinn’s autobiographical musings, but it’s a pretty grim relief when a sudden decision ushers in the film’s final act, with Alithea actively playing the Djinn’s role on takes. new master with her first wish.
It’s a concoction that only foreshadows the remaining scenes’ stumbles into romantic catharsis before falling across the finish line. As a result, the film doesn’t feel like the culmination of two individuals growing in and out of their relationship, but rather a weak ending to a collection of short stories that so desperately want to be about so many things that it forgets it’s necessary. two complete characters to create a love story.
Three thousand years of desire is sure to amass its share of fans, people content to let the film’s messages wash over them like a series of fables emanating from the mouth of a loved one. But there’s no denying that the experience is a messy amalgamation, full of seemingly unmotivated flirtations amid a structure that values the central relationship far less than might be expected from an apparent romance. Though you won’t regret it Three thousand years of desireit can make you wish it lived up to its potential.