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  • Writer's pictureeclectic Stefan

Three Thousand Years of Longing:"Careful what you wish for”

Storytelling is timeless; it reaches to the earliest tales of human endeavour and human desire--from the oral storytelling traditions of The Epic of Gilgamesh and The Odyssey to the earliest tales of Beowulf and Grendel--that attribute meaning to our lives. Djinns, also called genies, feature prominently in stories that reach beyond reason and plausibility. Narratives in movies about djinns have been highlighted in Eiichi Yamamoto’s animated fantasy A Thousand and One Nights (1969), Disney Studios’ Aladdin (1992), Michael Powell’s The Thief of Bagdad (1940) and, in 2022, George Miller’s Three Thousand Years of Longing.

I grant you three wishes

Three Thousand Years of Longing indulges our passion for storytelling. Academic Dr. Alithea Bibbie (Tilda Swinton) is a narratologist. She understands all the trappings of stories about magical creatures that endow humans with the possibility of gaining their heart’s desire through wishes. Her expertise is tested when, during a Narratology conference in Istanbul, she purchases an antique bottle and, when she cleans it by giving it a good scrub and a rub, hey presto, out pops a Djinn (Idris Elba). You guessed it, he grants her three wishes. If you know about the granting of wishes by a genie, then you, too, are a narratologist.

The Djinn's stories & the Queen of Sheba

By telling his stories about how he became entrapped in the bottle due to unrequited lust, betrayal, and desire for the Queen of Sheba, Djinn structures the meaning of his immortal existence and the dangers of wish fulfilment. Even Djinn succumbs to the power of love and desire for a young woman whose wishes endear and, ultimately, enslave him to her through his own choice; his choice entraps him across millennia. And her wish to the Djinn is the one wish noone wants to hear.

Director George Miller, in turn, uses film magic to tell Djinn's magical stories. To Djinn, a story is breathe; it is life. When granting Alithea her wishes, Alithea must confront the big question, “What is her heart’s desire”? There are rules around wishes. Djinn cannot grant her a wish to have endless wishes is one limitation. Djinn also warns her that wishes can have consequences if one is not specific about the nature of and how wishes may be granted.

Alithea and The Djinn and her heart's desire

Alithea is wary of Djinn. Her expert knowledge of stories about Djinns gives her an understanding of how a Djinn might deceive a person to make wishes rashly so the Djinn can be free of the bottle and of the person to whom he is indebted. After her careful deliberations and many conversations with Djinn, Alithea makes a calculated decision and takes a chance to make a wish. No, no, no, don’t think I’m going to reveal what she wishes. There’s only one way to discover Alithea’s wish and see how it affects her life. It involves buying a movie ticket.

“Be careful what you wish for, you may receive it.” – Anonymous

A cautionary tale about the precarious nature of wish fulfilment

Excerpt from The Monkey’s Paw:

“Hold it up in your right hand, and state your wish out loud so that you can be heard,” said the Sergeant-Major, “But I warn you of what might happen.”

“Sounds like the ‘Arabian Nights’”, said Mrs. White, as she rose and began to set the dinner.

Her husband drew the talisman from his pocket, and all three laughed loudly as the Sergeant-Major, with a look of alarm on his face, caught him by the arm.

“If you must wish,” he demanded, “Wish for something sensible.”

The Djinn: Careful what you wish for

Three Thousand Years of Longing exolores the nature of narratives and stories. Within Three Thousand Days of Longing, we have the story of Alithea and her active belief, almost to the point of delusion, in fantastical narratives. Within that narrative, Djinn entertains and seduces her with his own tales of longing and imprisonment. The final component of storytelling in Three Thousand Years of Longing is the film itself and we, the audience, are viewers and listeners of Alithea’s story of her meeting with a Djinn that becomes the book she is writing that, in turn, becomes the movie we are watching.

You won’t have to think too hard to understand the multiple strands of the stories because George Miller is a consummate storyteller and filmmaker. He makes it clear that stories exist within stories in an interwoven manner, yet in a way that is neither confusing nor self-indulgent. Tilda Swinton carries her role in a confident manner and Idris Elba as Djinn maintains a cloud of uncertainty about his commitment to enticing Alithea to pronounce her desires through wishes that have potentially destructive results.

Don’t expect a Marvel superhero storyline but do expect director George Miller to surround you with his inimitable brand of a fantastic narrative and magical film techniques that you don’t believe are real but that has the ability to seduce you with what you believe may be possible in a world where wishes could become reality.

Official Trailer Three Thousand Years of Longing

FILM EXTRAS: I wish, I wish

Aladdin (1992)

Disney Animation

Aladdin is a lovable street urchin who meets Princess Jasmine, the beautiful daughter of the sultan of Agrabah. While visiting her exotic palace, Aladdin stumbles upon a magic oil lamp that unleashes a powerful, wisecracking, larger-than-life genie (Voiced by Robin Williams). As Aladdin and the genie start to become friends, they must soon embark on a dangerous mission to stop the evil sorcerer Jafar from overthrowing young Jasmine's kingdom.


The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Classic Movie

When a tornado rips through Kansas, Dorothy (Judy Garland) and her dog, Toto, are whisked away in their house to the magical land of Oz. They follow the Yellow Brick Road toward the Emerald City to meet the Wizard. On their journey, they meet a Scarecrow (Ray Bolger) that needs a brain, a Tin Man (Jack Haley) missing a heart, and a Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr) who wants courage. The Wizard asks the group to bring him the broom of the Wicked Witch of the West (Margaret Hamilton) to grant their wishes to gain a brain, have a heart and become courageous.

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