Alithea (Tilda Swinton) is seemingly content with her life as a literary scholar, living in London, unattached and free to follow her intellectual pursuits.
Alithea’s life changes, however, when she attends an academic conference in Istanbul and buys a bottle at the Grand Bazaar. When Alithea opens the bottle in her hotel room, the bottle appears to jump out of her hands and a mighty Djinn (Idris Elba) appears. The Djinn offers Alithea 3 wishes in exchange for his freedom, but Alithea needs time to decide what she really wishes for. During the time they spend together, the Djinn tells Alithea the story of his life and the love affairs he has had, including with the Queen of Sheba.
Alithea discovers that she shares a love of stories with the Djinn, and together they explore the deepest desires of human beings. The stories expand over 3000 years of his life, including a period in the Ottoman Empire. The Djinn describes the wars and intrigues of the Ottoman Emperors.
During their conversations, Alithea realises that she has never felt the passionate love that the Djinn has felt several times. This becomes her first wish.
Love and desire; power imbalances in relationships; abuse of power; fantasy
Three Thousand Years of Longing has some violence. For example:
- A strange-looking man appears to devour Alithea, who then collapses on the ground.
- A musician/magician imprisons the Djinn in a brass bottle.
- A man is tied up in rope and strangled to death.
- A young woman is married to an older man who’s obsessed with her. She rebels against him while he’s having sex with her. Her eyes seem to melt, and she falls backwards onto him, crushing him.
- A battle scene shows men with swords, slaughtering other men and horses. Some have rifles, which they shoot people with.
- Soldiers use swords to attack an heir to the Ottoman throne. He lies dead in a pool of blood.
- A man fires arrows at entertainers who fail to impress him.
Three Thousand Years of Longing has some sexual references. For example:
- The Djinn says he had never desired anything more than the Queen of Sheba.
- The Djinn says that Sheba and the musician took pleasure in each other’s bodies.
- A man in a harem believes that the greater the expanse of flesh, the greater the pleasure.
- The Djinn asks Alithea if she wants to make love. She says she wants to feel the same desire he felt for Sheba.
Alcohol, drugs and other substances
Three Thousand Years of Longing has some use of substances. For example, a character is referred to as being drunk all the time.
Nudity and sexual activity
Three Thousand Years of Longing has some nudity and sexual activity. For example:
- The Djinn is naked most of the time.
- Sheba is seen naked from behind.
- Sheba has sex with the musician/magician. The scene doesn’t show a lot.
- A woman’s body is seen through a thin, cotton dress.
- The concubines are shown completely naked and voluptuous.
- A man is shown having sex with his young, submissive wife.
- Alithea is shown naked, wrapped up in the Djinn’s arms.
There’s no product placement in Three Thousand Years of Longing.
Three Thousand Years of Longing has some coarse language.
Ideas to discuss with your children
Three Thousand Years of Longing is a romantic fantasy drama based on A.S Byatt’s short story ‘The Djinn in the nightingale’s eye’. The story in the movie is told as a narrative, with an emphasis on the importance of storytelling. Scenes are often suddenly juxtaposed, however, which means that the story is sometimes quite confusing. The scenery is spectacular.
It’s important to be aware that Three Thousand Years of Longing is an adult fairy tale and not a modern version of Aladdin, despite the 3 wishes premise.
These are the main messages from Three Thousand Years of Longing:
- A good relationship should be about love and respect, and allow you to express your own identity and sense of self.
- If you set someone you love free, they’ll return to you if they truly love you.
Values in Three Thousand Years of Longing that you could reinforce with your children include the pursuit of knowledge, the importance of storytelling to culture, selflessness, and the value of strong women.
Three Thousand Years of Longing could also give you the chance to talk with your children about real-life issues like the way women have been treated as objects by men throughout history and the nature of women’s power in these contexts.