“Three Thousand Years of Longing” has been written and directed by Geroge Miller and co-written by Augusta Gore. The film is based on a short story named “The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye,” by A.S. Byatt. The film stars the splendid Tilda Swinton as Alithea Bennie and the always solemn and dependable Idris Alba as The Djinn. So, without wasting any moment, let’s analyze the metaphorical narrative and try to differentiate the facts from fiction.
‘Three Thousand Years Of Longing’ Plot Summary: What Is The Film About?
Dr. Alithea Bennie was a narratologist, and she was on her quest to find the truth that was common to all the stories known to mankind. While on her journey, she gets privy to her emotions, feelings, desires, and wants, that she had embedded in the fantastical world that she had created to cope with life in general. She says that her story is as true as any other concept of science that humankind holds fast to, but we won’t believe her unless and until she tells us that it is a fairy tale. Alithea knew that she couldn’t ever corroborate what she believed to be her reality with some evidence, and that is why she found it more convenient to say that it was a fairy tale than to let people think that she was a delusional person suffering from some mental disorder. Her journey was like a lucid dream where the fine line that often exists between imagination and reality blurs, so much so that you cannot differentiate between the two. She herself says that our perplexing existence finds some logic through the world of storytelling. For Alithea, the magic began where logic ended. Alithea marvels at the fascinating discoveries of the human race and somehow is able to break down the very purpose of technology into such small and crude fragments that, more than signs of progress, it points out towards the absurdity of life. She says that her quest often took her to the timeless cities of the Levant region, which corresponds to the Mediterranean region in contemporary times.
Alithea reaches Istanbul, Turkey, and meets Gunhan, her host and the organizer of the conference she was attending. She is made to stay in the same room in Pera Palace where Agatha Christie wrote, “Murder on the Orient Express. Gunhan addressed the audience at the conference and said that to understand the secret forces of nature, we resorted to stories. Much like her existence, Alithea believes that since the inception of time, mythology and science have been in conflict with each other. Just then, she saw an apparition of a king sitting amidst the audience. She knew she was once again hallucinating. Suddenly, her lucid imagination went out of control, and she fainted on the stage. When she woke up, Gunhan asked her to consult a doctor, but she said that she was completely fine. She went to an antique store in Istanbul and found a glass vessel that the shopkeeper called Cesm-I-Bulbul. He said that glassmakers in Incirkoy used to make similar patterns almost 300 years back and speculated that the antique belonged to that era. She takes the antique to her hotel room, and something extraordinary happens. A Djinn comes out of it, much like in the fairy tales. She believes it to be one of her hallucinatory visions and closes her eyes in the hope that it will disappear. But that doesn’t happen. The huge Djinn, unable to fit in the restraining ceilings of a man-made structure, adapts to new surroundings and reduces its size, how Alithea had reduced her expectations from life. He asks the narratologist to make three wishes, but she doesn’t want to fall into the trap. So, he starts telling her how for almost three thousand years, he was just trying to escape the captivity, but he hadn’t been successful in doing so. Now, everything depended on Alithea and her will to ask for those three wishes.
The Three Stories Of Djinn And Their Real Meaning, Explained
Story of Queen Sheba: There was a reason why Alithea was adorned by the forlorn antique, as it metaphorically represented her own life. The scratches on the glass vessel said a lot about what it had been through, how it had been forsaken, and how it camouflaged its own core with colorful patterns. Djinn tells her that he had been caught in a cage many times before, all of which were his own fault. The first time he was caught, it was because he was lured by his own desires. The Queen of Sheba, who finds her mentioned in Hebrew and Christian mythologies, was known for her beauty. Djinn says that she was a personification of the word beauty itself. Djinn always aspired to be with Sheba. He craved for her every moment, but the queen never really felt the same for him. Though he was somebody with whom she shared her secrets, he was no more than an object of amusement to her. The rumors about her beauty had crossed borders, and that is why King Solomon came from across the deserts in the hope that he could woo the princess. Sheba started giving tasks to King Solomon, that she knew he wouldn’t be able to successfully complete. She told him to find a red thread of silk in the huge palace, the secret name of her mother Djinn, and answer to the most difficult question in the world, i.e., what women desired the most. To her surprise, he was able to complete the tasks, as he could speak to the supernatural creatures existing in all the realms. The ants found the red silk. An Ifrit (a mythological demon) told him the mother’s secret name, and then he also told Sheba what women desired the most. Sheba married King Solomon, and Djinn burned with jealousy. King Solomon was a powerful magician as well, and he imprisoned the Djinn in a brass bottle. Alithea, too, had a similar story. She had married a guy named Jack. Much like Djinn and Sheba, she was separated from her husband, who went with another woman named Emmeline Porter. She felt the same grief and agony that the Djinn might have felt. She, too, dropped a hot tear like Sheba, only to make a sacrifice and move ahead in life, though the demons of her past kept haunting her.
The Story of Gulten And Murad: Djinn tells Alithea about the second time he was imprisoned, after rotting in the Red Sea for almost 2500 years and hoping to come out of confinement one day. A girl named Gulten found the brass bottle, in which the Djinn was confined, in the capital city of Constantinople. Gulten was smitten by the son of Suleiman the Magnificent, named Prince Mustafa. Djinn gave her the oils of enchantment and whispered her name in the ears of the sleeping prince. They both got married, and once again, Gulten made a second wish. She wanted to be pregnant, though Djinn tried to warn her about the consequences of the same, because he suspected that she would fall prey to the politics of the palace. Hurrem was a slave who later became the wife of the Ottoman king, Suleiman the Magnificient. She manipulated him into believing that his son, Mustafa, was trying to orchestrate a coup. She had her own insider network spread all across the palace. Mustafa was killed by his own father, and Djinn knew that Gulten would be next. He told her to make a wish and escape her fate, but she didn’t. Djinn tried to save her, but he was stopped by one of the followers of Iblis, the leader of demons. Djinn once again couldn’t go to the realm of Djinns. His brass bottle lay beneath the stone tile that only Gulten knew about. For 100 years, Djinn tried to attract the attention of somebody towards the hidden brass bottle. In 1620, a boy named Murad could sense the existence of the brass bottle. Djinn was filled with hope, and he tried his best to attract the boy’s attention. The young boy came to be known as Sultan Murad the Fourth, and he ascended the throne at the age of eleven. After the war, Murad became a barbarian who was ready to kill anything and everything that came in between his desires and ambitions. He killed all the people who could have had a probable claim to the throne, but Kosem, his mother, somehow was able to save his younger brother, Ibrahim. She called all the storytellers from the kingdom in order to distract Murad. Out of the several people who came with their stories, there was one man who was able to sway Murad with his tales. Murad grew fond of him, but the happiness was short-lived, and the old storyteller died. Murad was distraught, and once again, Djinn tried to grab his attention and make him open the stone tile, underneath which the brass bottle was hidden. But before Murad could do it, he died. Ibrahim, the surviving heir, was forced to sit on the throne. A woman named Sugar Lump, who was Ibrahim’s mistress, was appointed as the governor of Damascus. She was the one who slipped in the bathroom and broke the stone tile under which Djinn’s bottle was hidden. Instead of making a wish, Sugar Lump got petrified of the Djinn and wished that he would go back to the bottom of the Bosphorus. Once again, the Djinn couldn’t make himself leave the realm of mortals. The emotions that the characters and Djinn felt were similar to what Alithea had felt at some point in her life. She, too, had a miscarriage and had witnessed people ignoring her mere existence. Like Murad, she liked dwelling in stories because there was nothing left for her in the real world. She felt the same loneliness that Murad and even Djinn once felt. She was treading somewhere between the two worlds, just like the Djinn, and she had to do something about it before it was too late.
The Story Of Zefir: The last story that Djinn told her was about a girl named Zefir, who had the spirit of a scholar and an insatiable hunger to know more about the intricacies of the world. Her old husband had married her when she was just 12 years old. One day, out of nowhere, the old husband found the same brass bottle in which the Djinn had been imprisoned, in the belly of a fish. He gave it to Zefir, and the Djinn once again had the opportunity to try his luck and attain freedom. Zefir, as it was obvious, asked for knowledge. The Djinn made her wish come true. Zefir had created a mathematical language to understand the forces of nature, but she got stuck in a place and didn’t know how to move ahead. So, she used her second wish, and the Djinn granted her the power to dream while she was awake. The Djinn fell for her. He didn’t want her to make the third wish as he knew that it would take her away from him. Zefir started feeling like a prisoner, similar to what she felt with her husband. In her agony, she said how she wished she could forget that she had ever met the Djinn. And that is what happened. The Djinn was trapped in the same bottle that Alithea found in that antique shop in Istanbul. The Djinn had longed for three thousand years for his freedom, much like Alithea had longed for happiness. Alithea had spent a lot of time in a state of solitary confinement. Nobody knew what was happening inside her, but she wanted to get rid of the baggage. She tried again and again, but she always failed, just like the Djinn. She said that she was alone by choice, but we realized that the yearning for somebody who understood her never really went away. She was a prisoner of her own past and of her own emotions.
‘Three Thousand Years Of Longing’s Ending Explained – Was The Djinn Real?
Sheba, Murad, Ibrahim, Gulten, Zefir, and even the Djinn were personifications of Alithea’s own desires. They didn’t exist in reality. We get subtle hints by the makers which corroborate this theory. For example, Alithea had a collection of glass vessels just like Zefir had in one of Djinn’s stories. Both wore almost similar spectacles that had strings. In the court of Suleiman the Magnificent, Hurrem had asked a woman to keep an eye on Prince Mustafa. That same woman had also met Alithea during the conference in Istanbul and was introduced as Amina, hailing the British Council. Alithea had an abstract painting in her house depicting an Eye of a human, that resembled that of Djinn. Zefir and Enzo, for example, were characters created by Alithea in her own head, as she was inspired by the genius of Albert Einstein. It was her fantasy to imagine a genius like Einstein in the body of a woman, and then state how a female gaze or a female thought process was never given the approval to flourish in a male-dominated society. The misery, sorrow, anguish, pain, the loneliness felt by these characters were similar to what Alithea had once felt in her lifetime. It is pretty much possible that she was suffering from a mental condition similar to schizophrenia, but still, she lived in denial. We hear Clem and Fanny, neighbors of Alithea, talking to each other and saying that she had again started talking to herself. It meant that they had seen her talking to imaginary beings before. Alithea, though, didn’t consider it a bothersome issue as she says that it was just a menial matter of her imagination getting the better of her. The makers leave off hints to tell us that she had created these stories in her head to cope with her life. The elements and the characters of her story are similar to those that exist in her real life. She meets actual people in real life, and when she imagines a story, she weaves them into it. Djinn was an instrument that helped her understand what she should do and also how she should get closure in life.
At the end of “Three Thousand Years of Longing,” we see that Alithea asked Djinn to accompany her to London. She wished to receive unparalleled love from him, just like Zefir and Sheba had once. Though her wish was granted, she soon realized that she couldn’t keep him in this realm. She saw Djinn struggling with his deplorable condition. She knew that she had to let him go. She learned from the mistakes made by the Djinn himself, who had once stopped Zefir from making her third wish so that he could stay with her. Alithea didn’t want to make that same mistake once again. The most essential part of loving somebody is being able to let them go. She once again wished, but this time for Djinn to go back to his realm, where he belonged and where he could thrive.
Three months had passed since Djinn left Alithea, and she was able to manage without him. But unlike her imaginary friend Enzo, she didn’t abandon him, and neither did he. This itself was indicative of the fact that somewhere Alithea had learned to keep her imaginations in control. She still had the incessant need to dwell in her fictional world, but she had learned to maintain a balance where her reality wasn’t distorted by it. She says that Enzo was an emanation of absence. She was scared that one day her imaginary friend would leave her, so she wrote everything she had imagined in a journal. But there was a catch. She could not intermingle reality with her imagination. She began to doubt herself and finally ended up burning everything she had written about him. But this time, it was different. She could intermingle reality with her imagination and reside in a territory that was somewhere in between both realms. Maybe that is why the Djinn kept visiting her from time to time, whenever he could. It was not like Alithea didn’t grieve anymore or had moved on, but she had learned to accept life as it was. She still felt a sense of hollowness when she witnessed the innocence of a child, the beautiful bond shared by two people, or any other thing that she had been deprived of in her life. But now she didn’t run away from it. She still enjoyed her own company and mostly stayed alone, but she was at peace. Alithea still resided in her own fantasy land, not to hide from reality this time, but only to cherish the marvels of the make-believe world.
“Three Thousand Years of Longing” is a 2022 Drama Fantasy film directed by George Miller.