Three Thousand Years of Longing and the Spiritual Supremacy of Love

It started with an electric toothbrush.

Throughout Three Thousand Years of Longing, viewers will witness Solomon woo the Queen of Sheba with an instrument that plays itself. They will watch a young woman caught in a dispute between Suleiman the Magnificent and his son Prince Mustafa. They’ll witness a merchant’s wife invent spectacular flying machines in 19th-century Turkey.

But it all begins when literature professor Alithea Binnie (Tilda Swinton) uses her electric toothbrush to clean off a bottle she bought from an Istanbul merchant. The buzzing of the toothbrush gives way to explosions as the bottle begins to spin and shake, releasing plumes of violet smoke that fill the bathroom. From that mundane act, Alithea has released a magical being: The Djinn (Idris Elba).

This mix of the mundane and magical that director George Miller brings to his adaptation of A.S. Byatt’s short story may disappoint some. As often as the movie takes fantastic flights of fancy—all enhanced by the maximalist style Miller brought to previous films such as Mad Max: Fury Road—it always comes back to a conversation in a hotel room. In that room, The Djinn reveals that his centuries of confinement can finally end after he grants Alithea her three wishes. Simple enough, right?

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