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published film reviews & essays:

(Currently only in Hebrew)

3,000 thousand years of longing

A film review for example

In present day Istanbul, Dr. Alithea Binnie (Tilda Swinton) notices a small glass bottle in the Bazaar. Her decision to purchase it leads to a life changing encounter, and an introduction to a whole world Alithea thought only exists in the mythologies and tales she studies. We join her on a journey through vast spaces and many centuries, most within stories told by a Djinn (Idris Elba).

With such a premise, two of the finest actors of this generation and a director that perfected the blockbuster genre in Mad Max: Fury Road (2010), the expectations are certainly high. Even the title is massive in scale, including both thousand of years and strong emotions. This all leads to one question: Is this the closure for 3,000 years of longing?

Well, not quite.


The tales within the film are wonderful. You almost can’t go wrong with sex, violence, and politics at different times in history. George Miller can’t be blamed for not using the cinematic experience to the fullest, with rich cinematography and an epic soundtrack. There is a strong sense of wonder and fantasy. But the main story, ironic for a film so in love with storytelling, lacks a heart. While the absence of any original idea is forgivable, given it feels like a 2-hour homage, the narrative frame is noticeably less engaging while getting more screen time.


What a waste is it to cast Tilda Swinton as the lonely literary expert, who yearns for company. Her character and her journey are not as interesting as other characters that are mentioned in different tales. Swinton usually thrives in films like this, as she is a perfect fit for other-worldly characters, but in here she is confined to a very our-world cliché of a single woman that looks for love. Idris Elba, a brilliant actor in his own right, is a better fit for his character. His Djinn brings the magic to Alithea’s life, and we share her bedazzlement as the audience watching. Even so, the magic fades quickly when the emphasis goes back to our contemporary times and is almost completely forgotten. One wonders how thrilling it would be if the roles were swapped, with Elba as the lonely man and Swinton as the ancient creature.


This being a film about a western character exposed to eastern culture, Edward Said’s orientalism theory comes to my mind. Said’s writings indicate that western texts normally show the east (or more accurately, the Levant area) as a place of exotica, mysticism, and sexual freedom. If there was a chance here to make a new and subversive take on the way the west sees the east, it is missed. For The west (London in this case), the east (The Djinn and the folklore that surrounds him) is a source for entertainment, sexuality and wish granting – which, in itself, might be the most orientalist motif in western fiction. If the film really is a love letter, it only loves the storytelling itself and not the variety of cultures it pretends to represent.


All the whimsical tales, exciting as they may be on the big screen, aren’t enough to eclipse the somewhat bland film they’re at. It’s a film that cherishes the art of storytelling but doesn’t succeed in this very field. Nothing can shake Miller’s status as a talented filmmaker, but it isn’t anywhere near his past achievements. If it really is a passion project for Miller, it doesn’t evoke passion in the audience, that are left with an appetite for more – and not in the good way.


Let’s hope we’re not going to be longing for another 3000 years.

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