Dr Alithea Binnie (Tilda Swinton) is an academic – content with life and a creature of reason. While in Istanbul attending a conference, she happens to encounter a Djinn (Idris Elba) who offers her three wishes in exchange for his freedom.
This presents two problems. First, she doubts that he is real and second, because she is a scholar of story and mythology, she knows all the cautionary tales of wishes gone wrong. The Djinn pleads his case by telling her fantastical stories of his past. Eventually she is beguiled and makes a wish that surprises them both.
Oscar winning filmmaker GEORGE MILLER first encountered Alithea and the Djinn when he read British author A.S. BYATT’s 1994 short story ‘The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye’ in the late 1990s. “It’s a story that seemed to probe many of the mysteries and paradoxes of life, and so succinctly” Miller recalls. “Once read it stayed with me, as some stories tend to do…then, one day it occurred to me that it should be a film. It felt unique, something that you couldn’t quite fit into any genre and it ticked one very important box – there must be a whole lot more to it than meets the eye. There are stories within stories, a little like One Thousand and One Nights” says Miller.
Miller’s production company, Kennedy Miller Mitchell, bought the rights to the story in the late 1990s. Miller collaborated on the screenplay with AUGUSTA GORE. The Djinn admits to being too fond of the company of women. Through him we meet the Queen of Sheba, a slave and a genius. Gore adds: “The novella comments on the notion of women operating powerfully from positions of powerlessness”.
As the screenplay developed, in and around his other output, Miller was conscious that the film would be very different to his previous feature, 2015’s post-apocalyptic MAD MAX: FURY ROAD.
“Fury Road was mostly set outdoors, this film is mostly indoors,” he notes. “Fury Road had little dialogue; in this film a large part of the action happens through the discourse between Alithea and the Djinn. Fury Road played out in a compressed time frame – three days and two nights.
This story happens over three thousand years.” But for Miller, the commonality was in the dynamic narrative possibilities. “I approach stories like people use Geiger counters,” he explains, “looking for rich, dramatic ‘radiation’. Is there a deep seam to mine?”
For producer DOUG MITCHELL (who also produced MAD MAX: FURY ROAD, HAPPY FEET and BABE with Miller) “THREE THOUSAND YEARS OF LONGING” is a uniquely original movie. It has elements of action, adventure, historical epic, but at its core the film explores what’s real and what’s fantasy. And then, above all, it’s about love: the mystery of love.”
To Mitchell, the key ingredient is the director, George Miller: “It starts with George. He’s an extraordinary, talented filmmaker, and the nature of George is he doesn’t repeat himself. He loves trying something new. He owns the material. He does a massive amount of homework and studying, and he brings that to the set and shoots it. He has a tremendous inspirational quality for the crews he works with. They adore him and he adores them, and so what you get is this extraordinarily visual, articulate filmmaker.”
STARRING : IDRIS ELBA, TILDA SWINTON
EDITED BY : MARGARET SIXEL ACE
PRODUCTION DESIGNER : ROGER FORD
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY : JOHN SEALE ASC, ACS
MUSIC BY : TOM HOLKENBORG
COSTUMES DESIGNED BY : KYM BARRETT
EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS : DEAN HOOD, CRAIG McMAHON, KEVIN SUN.
WRITTEN BY : GEORGE MILLER and AUGUSTA GORE
BASED UPON THE SHORT STORY : ‘THE DJINN IN THE NIGHTINGALE’S EYE’ BY A.S. BYATT
PRODUCED BY : DOUG MITCHELL AND GEORGE MILLER
DIRECTED BY : GEORGE MILLER
Rated R for some sexual content, graphic nudity and brief violence.
Distributed Through United Artists Releasing.
© 2022 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc. All Rights Reserved.