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Mustang View full size

Mustang

172403

Günes Sensoy, Doga Doguslu, Elit Iscan, Tugba Sunguroglu, Ilayda Akdogan, Nihal G. Koldas, Ayberk Pekcan

Turkish drama following the coming of age of a group of young orphaned sisters in a strict conservative society. In a remote Turkish village, five orphaned sisters find themselves at the centre of a scandal after an...

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Turkish drama following the coming of age of a group of young orphaned sisters in a strict conservative society. In a remote Turkish village, five orphaned sisters find themselves at the centre of a scandal after an innocent trip to the beach with some of their male classmates. Accused of frolicking by a nosy neighbour, the sisters are made to suffer at the hands of their uncle and forced by their grandmother and aunties to remain in the house to learn important domestic skills before having suitable husbands chosen for them.
  • Featuring Günes Sensoy, Doga Doguslu, Elit Iscan, Tugba Sunguroglu, Ilayda Akdogan, Nihal G. Koldas, Ayberk Pekcan
  • Directors Deniz Gamze Ergüven
  • Other Cast David Chizallet, Ersin Gok, Warren Ellis, Charles Gillibert, Deniz Gamze Ergüven, Alice Winocour
  • Running time 97 minutes
  • Certification 15
  • Languages Turkish
  • Region 2
  • Subtitles Yes
  • Format DVD
  • Year 2015
  • Release Date 11/07/2016
  • Number of Discs 1
  • Colour Colour
  • Label Fusion Media Sales
  • RRP 15.99
  • Country of Origin France/Germany/Turkey/Qatar
  • Trailers Yes
  • Subtitle Languages English
  • Original Language Turkish

This Turkish drama finds five sisters staging a rebellion after their hardline conservative family places them under lock and key. It’s a spirited feminist twist on the prison-movie template

The legend of the mustang is that of a fierce and independent spirit that cannot be tamed. Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s Mustang, an Oscar foreign-film nominee earlier this year, opens on the sight of a gang of girls – sisters, lit. and fig. – running wild through their tiny coastal town. They josh one another about their growing bodies; they scrump apples from the branch; they horse around in the sea with male schoolchums. With supreme economy, Erguven and co-writer Alice Winocour establish one key fact: these girls won’t be bridled easily.

It’s important that we see this energetic yet harmless splashing around with our own eyes, for it provides the motor for Mustang’s plot. Reports that the girls have been “rubbing their parts on boys’ necks” inspires shame in their cowed mother and wrath in their hardline father, an overreaction that will strike the majority of Western viewers as laughable – and Ergüven’s film, as surely as did last year’s similarly garlanded Timbuktu, relies upon its audience finding the fundamentals of fundamentalism fundamentally absurd.

In this household, however – characterised by one sister as “a wife factory”, geared towards turning out meek, subservient women willing to perpetuate the patriarchy – such gossip cues a clampdown. The sisters are grounded, refitted with drab, sackcloth dresses, then shuffled through classes in how to be good housewives. Yet their spirit won’t be entirely cowed. After much whispering among themselves, the girls initiate a committed program of domestic disobedience, spitting in prospective in-laws’ coffee, before sneaking out, first under cover of night, then in the bright light of day.

Very quickly, we realise that Ergüven and Winocour are engaging in their own act of subversion. Mustang takes a very masculine prison-movie template – it’s another Great Escape – and adds 21st-century sociopolitical context, the better to highlight the plight of young women in certain corners of the globe. Each crack the sisters engineer in their household’s infrastructure is met by their oppressors with another wave of obstacles and deprivations – higher walls, thicker fences, more locks – while the eldest sisters find themselves being married off, Mustang’s equivalent of being sent to the chair or hole.

It could have made for grim, despairing viewing – or, worse, a fingerwagging lecture – yet the young cast transform every sequence into a conspiratorial pleasure: we’re right there mid-huddle whenever they plot their next escape route. As if taking her cue from Andrea Arnold’s direction of the sisters in Fish Tank, Ergüven coaches her leads to be not precocious, but natural: they stretch out their limbs, let their hair down, and twirl, pirouette, kick and scream, at every turn expressing themselves in ways it may not otherwise be possible (or advisable) to under Sharia law.

Throughout, the girls lead, and the camera – and, hopefully, the audience – follows. Much of Mustang operates at a pitch that a grouch would describe with that loaded word “hysterical”, yet the filmmaker needs to show the frantic fightback in progress to power home her point. There’s always a ruckus going on here, always someone threatening to smash the crockery or blow the roof off the joint; Mathilde van de Moortel’s editing whips each sequence up into its own little whirlwind.

Yet equally Ergüven’s alert to the details that betray just what her heroines are up against: the gun in the waistband of the father-in-law taking one young bride to the hospital after she fails to bleed on her wedding night; the background sounds (builders on a scaffold, preachers on TV) that thunder through a household requiring its occupants to keep schtum, reinforcing the status quo. Mustang knows full well how, against our better nature, tyrannies take root – yet it’s another of this fundamentally mischievous work’s accomplishments that it could also be screened as a how-to in overthrowing them.

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