Mustang Film Review
26 Nov 2015
I could not have imagined a better shero! Lale, played by Günes Sensoy, the youngest of five sisters in Mustang, leads the pack in defying the new restraints set on the five girls by their grandmother and uncle who is determined to rule with an iron fist.
After a harmless co-ed game at the beach with a few male classmates, the threat of a scandal and a bad reputation propels the grandmother and uncle to transform the five teenaged sisters from playful youths to submissive wives. The five sisters are no longer allowed to journey outside of the house, listen to the radio, watch television, use the internet, or participate in anything that their grandmother and uncle believe will lead them into “perversion”. Iron gates go up around the house, windows are barred, all doors are locked and contemporary clothing is confiscated. According to Lale, the house has become a “Wife Factory” where the five sisters now spend their days learning how to cook, clean, sew and submit.
However, “The stricter the government, the wiser the population,” is what my grandmother used to say. These five girls find ways around these new prison mandates that bring humor and excitement to the film. More than her four sisters, Lale, the preteen stands her ground both blatantly and subtly to maintain some semblance of what their lives were like before they became prisoners. As the grandmother and uncle arrange marriages for the 4 sisters, Lale protests more than the other girls and conjures up creative ways to rebelliously steal joy.
Much of the negative criticism regarding Mustang comments that the film demonizes Islam and portrays Turkey as a backward patriarchal society. However, I applaud Deniz Gamze Ergüven, the film’s director, for not making Islam out to be the villain in the lives of these girls nor modern Turkish culture. The film is set in Kastamonu, a remote village in Northern Turkey and Ergüven makes it a point to illustrate the setting as an isolated section of Turkey, as opposed to the very contemporary Istanbul. Religion is not mentioned at all in the film so I would not credit Islam as the reason for the chokehold on the five main characters. Conservatism is certainly the antagonist and we root for these sisters as they attempt and sometime succeed to liberate themselves bit by bit as their home becomes more of a maximum security chamber… bit by bit.
The five sisters are played by first time actors who have somehow bonded wonderfully and are very convincing as sisters on the screen. They fight, laugh, defend and love each other in ways that makes it hard to believe that they have not received years of extensive training as seasoned thespians. The acting was radiant and though Lale was the youngest and smallest, her performance was larger than life and commanded undivided attention.
Mustang is passionate in every act and a film that modern women will be extremely proud to pass on to future generations.