Film Review: Mustang (2015) directed by Deniz Gamze Erguven

Five sisters who share mirth, childhood games and broken dreams are at the heart of Mustang, a Turkish, French and German collaboration directed by Deniz Gamze Erguven.

The film is a vision of the freedom and light spirit of youth but conversely, it also chronicles a certain destruction of the human spirit, and how the best intentions can sometimes be instrumental in the demise of hope. Lale is the youngest of five sisters, living in a small Turkish village outside Istanbul. The last day of school brings about a feeling of carefree merriment, as Lale and her siblings indulge in a day of splashing in the surf with their classmates, some of who are boys.

"Mustang"-Cohen Media Group.
“Mustang”-Cohen Media Group.

This innocent frolicking brings scandal to the ears of the closed, conservative village the girls live in, extricating strict punishment at the hands of their grandmother and uncle, who decide that the girls will no longer be allowed to attend school, but will instead remain home to be trained in domestic duties, and eventually, auctioned off into marriage.

Confined at home, and no longer allowed to use their clothes, which are replaced by gray and shapeless garb, everything that has made them happy is taken away from them: makeup, books computer, the telephone. The sisters find solace in each other and their childhood games.

"Mustang"-Cohen Media Group.
“Mustang”-Cohen Media Group.

Their hope of escaping this new life of cruel restrictions is continuously fed by Lale who like Chekhov’s Irina, is still very much a child but at the same time wise enough to know that this is not the life she is meant to have. She engineers an escape to a football match with her sisters where their last free and untroubled moments together are lived. After they return, their lives are changed forever.

As they are presented to prospective husbands and their families, they are married off one by one. Sonay, the eldest, is the only one who is truly happy with the match because fortuitously she is promised to the boy she passionately loves. The other sisters are not so lucky. Selma, the second eldest hates her new husband and her purity is questioned when she doesn’t bleed on her wedding night.

"Mustang"-Cohen Media Group.
“Mustang”-Cohen Media Group.

The sisters are brought together one more time, amid tragedy that strikes the family, allowing ugly secrets to be revealed. Lale knows she must find a way out, lest her be trapped in a life she has never wanted, salvation presents itself in the strangest way, Istanbul looming over like a protective shadow.

The film offers a harsh and honest view of the strict cultural traditions in Turkey, where often women are treated like a commodity to be traded or sold off to the highest bidder. This reality is interwoven with the beauty of the sisters themselves who in their innocence and youth, are like a breath of promise for change and new possibilities.

About ADRIANA DELGADO 68 Articles
Art Film File is a site for cinephiles ,who like myself, have a deep respect, love, and admiration for independent and foreign films of every era. Readers who follow Art Film File are for the most part adverse to the "Hollywood Blockbuster" theorem (although there are many good ones out there) showing instead a strong inclination to connect with films that explore topics such as life, identity and philosophy without necessarily following a neat studio-oriented narrative. In the past, much like it is now, many independent and foreign films get done many times with countless challenges. Small budgets, little or no outside funding and absence of willing distributors are some of the problems that many American and foreign independent filmmakers face regularly. Art Film File acts as a conduit in bringing these films, past and present, to the public's attention. Art Film File is also a site that displays detailed reviews about films they haven't seen as well as for films they have seen and wish to share their own views. I plan to include interviews with filmmakers and actors of indie and foreign films in addition to articles depicting topics of interest for readers who already follow Art Film File and for those waiting to discover it. Adriana Delgado Founder and Blog Manager of Art Film File

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