Mustang Blu-ray Review


The shadow of The Virgin Suicides undoubtedly looms large over Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s feature-length debut film, Mustang.

But far from being derivative, if anything this just reaffirms the timelessness and universality of both films’ themes.

The story, set in a small Turkish town by the Black Sea, opens with five teenage sisters making their way home from school one day. The sisters are accompanied by boys from school and all engage in some harmless fun at the local beach.

By the time they get home that evening, their grandmother says that they were spotted by a neighbour and publically partaking in lewd acts.

Despite the girls’ protests, their uncle is similarly incensed by the neighbour’s account and bans them from leaving the house, even for school.

From this point on, the girls are home-schooled, but more in domestic duties than academic subjects. The youngest sister, Lale (a terrific Güneş Şensoy), recounts the girls’ boredom, as well as her own, and paints a picture of the increasingly stifled atmosphere within the house.

As matters progress, the house becomes more and more a place of incarceration (bars on the windows) and the girls’ clothes are replaced with heavy, shapeless dresses.

The domestic home-schooling turns the house, in Lale’s words, into a ‘wife factory’. And sure enough, marriage soon appears to be the girl’s only exit route.

The story may be geographically specific in its setting, but its depiction of women in society is sure to strike a chord with both men and women of all ages across the world.

In a parallel to the film’s themes, Ergüven discovered that she was pregnant shortly before filming which apparently prompted the lead producer to quit and prophesise the film’s failure to other key crew members.

Another producer stepped in and the film proceeded, with the project thus showing the same resilience as some of its protagonists’ spirits.

Ergüven assuredly captures the juxtaposition between the sisters’ carefree natures and the claustrophobia of the house, whilst never preaching about the film’s subject or being heavy-handed about its messages.

The tone is, for the most part, quite sombre, but there are moments of levity too. One of these more memorable instances revolves around the girls’ unpermitted excursion to see a football match at which only women were allowed.

The tragedy is what generally follows such moments, as can be seen from the film’s opening horseplay at the beach.

All of the performances are wonderful and ring true, from the underplayed Selma to the assertive Sonay, but the choice of assigning narrating duties to the youngest sister, lends a Scout-Finch-esque air of innocence in describing something very real, very ugly and very wrong.

This film lives up to the hype and the questions it raises will haunt you long after the credits roll.

Conor Brennan

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Dates ‘n stuff

July 2016