Director: Deniz Gamze Ergüven
Writer: Deniz Gamze Ergüven, Alice Winocour
Cast: Günes Sensoy, Doga Zeynep Doguslu, Tugba Sunguroglu, Elit Iscan, Ilayda Akdogan, Nihal G. Koldas, Ayberk Pekcan, Bahar Kerimoglu, Burak Yigit, Erol Afsin
Seen on: 3.4.2016
Lale (Günes Sensoy) and her sisters Nur (Doga Zeynep Doguslu), Selma (Tugba Sunguroglu), Ece (Elit Iscan) and Sonay (Ilayda Akdogan) have a pretty good childhood. But then one day after school their grandmother (Nihal G. Koldas), who is raising them, greets them with accusations and beatings. The neighbors complained about them, they were behaving improperly and flirted with boys. All of a sudden, their childhood is over. The girls are locked away at home, their education reduced to learning how to be a good wife and all of them are to be married off as soon as possible.
Mustang is a beautiful, touching film that deals with many important issues in a thoughtful manner that doesn’t fail to hit home.
In content Mustang resembles The Virgin Suicides. In both films girls get locked away at home because of fear for their purity. But (as far as I remember, it’s been a while since I saw The Virgin Suicides) Mustang’s framing is absolutely opposite to The Virgin Suicides: the girls are never a mystery, their actions are not the ones called in question. Instead it’s the society around them that is. As long as the girls are on their own the film works with warm, almost overly romantic images their utopia disturbed by the strict society they are forced in – and that tries to diminish them wherever it can.
And what a society the girls live in: one where marrying of children is seen not as a problem but as a solution to many things, even sexual abuse; one where virginity checks are quite normal; one where women have to carve out their spaces with all of their might and in solidarity or they won’t have any. And even then, the men around them best not notice that they are there. The film is set in Turkey, but the problems are certainly not limited to Turkish society (as if there was only one).
Also contrary to The Virgin Suicides, at least some of the girls in Mustang get an out. The ending is probably (unfortunately) the most unrealistic thing about the film, but honestly I don’t care. it was just great to get a story that leaves room for other options instead of a story that shows sexism and misogyny as inescapable while also showing the profoundly ruinous effect they have.
The film is an expressive statement against these oppressive circumstances, but even more so a strong statement for the girls, for their vibrant joy and love. Mustang shows us that we should fight that those are never extinguished, not do everything possible to conform them to societal standards that leave them without options.