Three Thousand Years of Longing

George Miller’s return to feature filmmaking after his career’s apotheosis Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) trades that film’s tactility and near-relentless narrative drive for something much more fantastical and circular, with largely mixed results. While Three Thousand Years of Longing takes as its jumping-off point the extended encounter between a narratologist (Tilda Swinton) and the djinn she unwittingly unleashes (Idris Elba), the film moves with uncertainty between their present-day hotel room and the simulacra of ancient times that the genie has experienced. Each of the three stories he tells revolves around the circumstances in which he was imprisoned, feeling free to meander through the massive, beautiful, and uncanny digital structures and the somewhat weaker stories, which vary between the joy of learning and the delight in grotesquerie. It truly is unfortunate that Miller’s worthy but limited effort — by his gleefully maximalist sensibilities that overwhelm the delicate tête-à-tête; by first too little, then too much footage of the present day; by a romance that, while affecting generally and carried out well by the two actors, feels schematic — came out just a year after Memoria. The fear and trembling in the face of the supernatural/extraterrestrial that Swinton conveyed so potently there reappears here in attenuated form; there is even a scene where the djinn acts as a radio receiver for all the noises of the modern world. Three Thousand Years of Longing and Miller himself are best in the moment, in little tricks and teleological progressions, which only inconsistently come to the surface here.

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