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‘Three Thousand Years of Longing’ Film Review: George Miller’s Fantasia Explodes All Your Blockbuster Expectations

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Cannes 2022: Tilda Swinton and Idris Elba star in a visually imaginative exploration of storytelling
Of all the delirious sights that fill the screen and dazzle the eyes in George Miller’s delightfully idiosyncratic “Three Thousand Years of Longing,” the most surprising is also, without a doubt, the most banal: It is the four-inch piece of cloth that actress Tilda Swinton drapes across her nose and mouth as her character rides a city bus. It would seem this fairy-tale landscape that Miller has dreamed up – a land of Djinns and magic wishes and men who morph into malicious little ghouls before scattering away as 10,000 scarabs – is also, apparently, a world shook by COVID. This tension between escapism and the dreariness we often hope to escape lies at the heart of the mad scientist Miller’s latest experiment, which premiered to waves of applause at the Cannes Film Festival on Friday. Like “Mad Max: Fury Road” before it, “Three Thousand Years of Longing” is another kind of blockbuster that tries to lead by example, a big-budget fantasia that argues there are more imaginative and original ways for Hollywood to employ its tools. Adapted from a short story by A.S. Byatt, the film is also a very talky two-hander that feels like a close cousin to Ang Lee’s “Life of Pi” as it mixes screen spectacle with philosophical reflection onto the nature of love, agency, and social responsibility. And like Lee’s 2012 Oscar winner, which was also lifted from the page, “Three Thousand Years of Longing” feels closer in nature to the literary tradition than to the recent studio model that only touches ethereal subjects with the promise of a 30-minute action finale.

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