Far from the essence and the fury of Mad Max: Fury Road, George Miller reminds us how much there is still a fantastic storyteller in Three Thousand Years Waiting for You. Maybe too fantastic.
Although Mad Max: Fury Road is positioned as one of the major films of the past decade, many of its detractors point to a lack of story, summing it up to “a Mario Kart race in the desert” (according to ). A simplistic criticism, but nevertheless understandable for those who would not have been caught up in the grandiose spectacle of George Miller. Let them be reassured, Three thousand years to wait for you could be seen as an answer addressed to them; the director reminds everyone that he is not just a genius for images, he is also a great storyteller.
Here, the filmmaker intends to dissect the weight of words and myths in our society, without abandoning the magical premise of his story. From the first shot, Tilda Swinton assumes the posture of narrator and warns that what follows, although true, will be more acceptable if taken in fairy tale form. We find the theme of faith, dear to Miller (very present in Fury Road), approached here in a very Cartesian way: for something to become real, you just have to accept to believe in it.
This is how he makes his heroine a narratologist whose study of the stories allowed him to conclude (prematurely as she will discover) that the Genies – or Djinns – and other legendary creatures were only a means for their contemporaries to explain the inexplicable, before science comes to make its beings obsolete. Nevertheless, the man, still having this thirst to believe, then turned to the adventures of modern superheroic figures. But what if these forgotten creatures really existed and it was we who had rendered them unfit for this world? What if these stories from the past said much more about Man than science? When Alithea Binnie meets a Djinn offering to grant her three wishes, she has studied the evil side of wishes only too well and refuses to be tempted. Until the jinn tells him his story…
Three thousand years waiting for you presents itself as an assumed current revisit of the tales of the Thousand and One Nights where two solitary beings find themselves recounting past memories. Miller also has fun disguising his film as a book, cutting it into chapters according to the memoirs of his heroes. A beautiful setting for those whose imagination is constantly combined with a sense of the spectacular, offering us real paintings as soon as they plunge us into forgotten centuries where legends come to life.
Whether you are in the halls of the golden palace of the Queen of Sheba, the Turkish-Persian wars or the inventors of the 19th century, Miller’s staging is full of detail, magic and above all, continually expresses something. Each scene contains a statement, a part of the tale and takes the viewer on a journey through time to live a sensory experience. An experience multiplied tenfold by the science of editing with transitions between the past and the present so harmonious that one passes from one sequence to another as simply as one would turn the pages of a book.
Three Thousand Years Waiting for You demonstrates an aesthetic mastery that goes hand in hand with his sense of allegory. Here, the images respond to the words and the latter have a meaning, an integral part of a vision, of an ultimately very human feeling; the most beautiful there is. Because the stories of Three Thousand Years Waiting for You are ultimately not stories, they are journeys into the psyche, exploring our relationship to others and to what surrounds us. Every minute of the film is an invitation to let go and get carried away.
Dreamlike tale, craftsmanship, masterful interpretation by Tilda Swinton and Idris Elba… Trois Mille ans à t’attends lacks nothing and that is perhaps its main flaw. By giving us a verbose scenario coupled with an immaculate aesthetic painting, Miller signs one of his most accomplished films, but also one of the coldest. Throughout, we had the feeling, purely subjective by definition, of staying on the sidelines. To attend, precisely, something that was told to us, but of which we were not part. We admire the beauty of words and images, without soaking them up. We witness two lives that escape us. The film transpires emotion, but does not provoke it, at least concerning the author of these lines.
More objectively, the film can also leave on the floor those who would not succumb to a scenario that lets itself flow, without imposing rhythm, energy. Where Fury Road shone with its action, Three Thousand Years Waiting for You is almost devoid of it. It’s a proposal for cinema and like any proposal, it’s up to the viewer to accept it or not, to believe it or not.