Three Thousand Years of Longing

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Short takes

Not suitable under 15; parental guidance to 15 (adult themes, nudity and sex scenes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Three Thousand Years of Longing
  • a review of Three Thousand Years of Longing completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 12 September 2022.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 15 Not suitable due to adult themes, nudity and sex scenes.
Children aged 15 Parental guidance recommended due to adult themes, nudity and sex scenes.
Children over the age of 15 Ok for this age group.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines. Other classification advice (OC) is provided where the Australian film classification is not available.

Name of movie: Three Thousand Years of Longing
Classification: M
Consumer advice lines: Nudity, sex, violence and occasional coarse language
Length: 108 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Alithea (Tilda Swinton) is seemingly content with her life as a literary scholar, living in London, unattached and free to follow her intellectual pursuits. Her life is changed considerably, however, when she attends an academic conference in Istanbul. Back in her hotel room, a bottle Alithea bought at the Grand Bazaar appears to jump out of her hands and a mighty Djinn (Idris Elba) appears. The Djinn offers her three wishes in exchange for his freedom but Alithea needs time to decide what she really wishes for. During the time spent 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 three thousand years of his life, including a period in the Ottoman Empire. The Djinn describes the wars and intrigues of the Ottoman Emperors in order to hold on to power. During these conversations, Alithea realises that she has never felt the passionate love that the Djinn has felt on several occasions and this becomes her first wish.


Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Love and desire; Power imbalances in relationships; Abuse of power; Fantasy.

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie, including:

  • 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 murdered by being tied up in rope and strangled.
  • A young woman is married to an older man who is obsessed with her. She rebels against him one time while he is 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 attack an heir to the Ottoman throne with swords. He is seen lying dead in a pool of blood.
  • A man fires arrows at entertainers who fail to impress him.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • The Djinn first appears as a very large man, naked (no private parts shown) and hairy. His skin breathes smoke constantly.
  • There are some very strange creatures and characters that would scare children in this age group.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • The Djinn often vanishes into swirls of red smoke.
  • On one occasion, the Djinn grows really large, hitting his head on the ceiling. Smoke pours out of him.
  • A man changes into a large spider with a loud distorted voice. The spider splits into hundreds of baby spiders.
  • A woman makes a wish which causes a great explosion.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged eight to thirteen, including the following:

  • An old man is seen dead on the streets.
  • A large fish is shown being gutted and all its innards flow out onto the floor.
  • The Djinn lifts Alithea into the air and they both seem to dissolve into fire.
  • Alithea comes home to find the Djinn on the floor in her basement. His face is dried and cracked – he appears lifeless but she wishes him to come alive.

Thirteen and overinfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

  • Children in this age group are likely to be disturbed by the above-mentioned scenes.
  • A man is shown in a harem with a large group of concubines whom he can have sex with whenever he wants.
  • It is mentioned that a woman was married at the age of 12 and virtually kept in a cage.

Product placement

  • None noted.

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • The Djinn says he had never desired anything more than the Queen of Sheba.
  • The Djinn says how Sheba and the musician took pleasure in each other’s bodies.
  • The man in the 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 had for Sheba.

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • The Djinn is naked most of the time.
  • Sheba is seen naked from behind.
  • Sheba has sex with the musician/magician. Not a lot shown but still obvious.
  • A woman’s body is clearly seen through a thin cotton dress.
  • The concubines are seen on several occasions, completely naked and voluptuous.
  • A man is shown having sex with his young, submissive wife – nothing too explicit.
  • Alithea is shown naked, wrapped up in the Djinn’s arms.

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • A character is referred to as being drunk all of the time.

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • One use of the word, “fuck”.

In a nutshell

Three Thousand Years of Longing is a fantasy drama based on the short story, The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye by A.S Byatt. The story in the film is told in narrative style, with the emphasis on the importance of storytelling. The scenery is quite spectacular; however, the sudden juxtaposition of scenes can be somewhat confusing, losing the depth and meaning of the film. Parents need to know that this is an adult fairy tale and not a modern version of Aladdin, despite the three wishes premise.

The main messages from this movie are that a good relationship should be about love and respect, without losing one’s identity and sense of self; and that if you set someone you love free, they will return to you if they truly love you.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • The pursuit of knowledge
  • The importance of storytelling to culture
  • Selflessness
  • Strong female characters.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as:

  • How women were treated in the past as chattels and owned by men.
  • How women had to use subtle means to wield power of their own.