“Three Thousand Years of Longing” in Cinema: The Good Spirit in a Bathrobe – Culture

Stories are made of history. Imagination contains – sometimes more, sometimes less – something historically authentic, because it comes from human brains that copy, interpret and rearrange what has been experienced. Narrative scientist Alethia Penny (Tilda Swinton), whose complicated name and job title already anticipates the image of the odd bespectacled spinster with academic experience, investigates this interaction: she studies myths. The lectures with which you travel around the world as a lecturer in narrative theory deal with the truth content of myths and epics.

When Alethia takes a filthy but elegantly curved glass jar from the bazaar to her hotel room on a business trip to Istanbul, she experiences the literal meaning of “letting the genie out of the bottle.” When she tries to clean the worst of the bottle with her electric toothbrush, the stopper falls into the sink.

And it seems – with a bang of smoke and fire – someone who can verify the stories she loves: for his immortality, the giant djinn (Idris Elba), who suddenly stands in her hotel room, is a kind of contemporary witness. Of course, the friendly demon has three wishes in his bags that he must fulfill for Alithea – or else he threatens to force him back into the bottle’s boring existence. But to do this, a self-sufficient woman must first know what she wants …

Stories almost like 1001 nights

Mad Max director George Miller delves into room drama with the fantasy genre in “Three Thousand Years of Longing,” adapted from a short story by British author A. S. Byatt, which he developed over twenty years. The starting point is the approach of two reclusive people – the inquisitive narrative realm and the genie who has been starving in the bottle for centuries. Following the classic Scheherazade pattern, the two tell each other about their adventures. The gin, adapted in size to a hotel room designed for man, and from then on wears a white bathrobe with his ears rickety sitting obediently next to the world, also draped in a terry cloth, naturally has more to report.


His tales, drawn by Miller in a sensual fantasy aesthetic with a bit of a “witcher” flair as flashbacks reach into the past, revolve around the beautiful Queen of Sheba, who was not only Solomon but also the Djinn. On the authority of Sultan Suleiman’s son and his fondness for obese women; by the regent Murad IV; And by a talented inventor named Zephyr.

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It’s eye-level myth-historical conversation, because Alethia, who is suffering from hallucinations, is of course familiar with myths – at least the passages that historians have transmitted. But they do not always turn out to be facts. Solomon went to see the Queen of Sheba, as the jinn say. No, she came to him, corrects Alethea, and points out the motifs of the painting and Handel’s drawing of the arrival of the Queen of Sheba. “I was there, madam,” interjects the gin, performed by Elba with a pleasing mixture of sincerity and other-worldly excitement.

(in 21 cinemas in Berlin, also OV / OmU)

With such grandiose fantasies and dönekens, Miller and co-author (and daughter) Augusta Gore work through the original function of storytelling, which also forms the basis of filmmaking. On the other hand, Miller puts love at the center of his multicultural intrigue: she desires nothing and no one, does not doubt the wise soul, who has experienced longing for 3,000 years, tells his new acquaintances that in reality it is impossible.

Miller sets his play apart from the action narratives he is accustomed to and presents epic miniatures that are bold and impressive as more contemplative than compelling. If there is destiny, Alithea thinks, can we escape from it? Such philosophical questions, or even the realization that we “exist only if others believe in us,” are given veracity by Tilda Swinton’s play With the Witch Gin.

It’s her self-styled charm that shields her character from the old maid’s misogynistic cliché – and brings out the postcards’ wonderful wisdom. Whether it saves the jinn from exile in the bottle is another story.

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