Eye For Film >> Movies >> Mustang (2015) Film Review
Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson
Deniz Gamze Ergüven's feature debut Mustang, in its simplest terms, pits the freedom of youth, untamed by experience, against the stifling patriarchy of ultra-conservative Turkey. Instead of opting for a grit and despair approach - although there is a sharp reminder of mortality - the director and her co-writer Alice Winocour side with their young protagonists, drawing on their boundless energy to tell their story in the spirit of a fable and in a way that makes it accessible to younger audiences.
Their tale focuses on a group of orphan sisters, descending from the eldest Sonay (Ilayda Akdogan) in Von Trapp family style intervals through Selma (Tugba Sunguroglu), Ece (Elit Iscan) and Nur (Doga Zeynep Doguslu) - down to the youngest, tweenie age-grouped Lale (Günes Sensoy), who acts as guide and heroine.
We meet them in a moment of full spate, playing in the sea with a group of male and female friends after school, little expecting their high jinks will be interpreted as something a lot more sexual by the local community. On arrival back at the home they share with their gran and uncle, she snatches them up one by one, dragging them into a room to check their 'status'. From this moment forward, their lives will become a cycle of 'virginity reports' and 'lock-up' as anything that is likely to pervert the girls - from telephones to computers - is banned.
Worse, Lale realises they have embarked on the conveyor belt leading to the processing machine marked 'marriage' when "shapeless, shit-coloured dresses", cooking and stuffing bedding wll become the norm.
Mustang doesn't make leaps, it takes baby steps, showing how the girls' home is turned into a well-appointed prison, not overnight, but by degrees, while also showing the inventiveness of resistance, as the girls find ways to flout the rules. By doing this, Ergüven hints at the way complete lockdown can seem somehow reasonable if done by stealth.
The film offers surprising nuance. Not all the girls are against the idea of marriage and the older generation of women show themselves to be a lot more complex than they first appear, displaying flashes of the energy and ingenuity that burns so brightly in the younger girls but that has been dimmed in them by years of experience and restriction. There is also the suggestion that the medical profession may become co-conspirators when necessary. Ergüven keeps the girls' spirit on top, frequently showing them as a graceful jumble of bodies, a unit who pull together when times get tough. This is, on one level, a fairytale, complete with a knight of the road, if not in shining armour, but it is also a tense drama that features clear and present danger as well as the more intellectual long-term threat. Lale and Ergüven imagine a different future and rise to greet it.Reviewed on: 14 Dec 2015
If you like this, try:Girlhood