The restrained but powerful Turkish–French co-production, Mustang was nominated for Best Foreign Language film at this year’s Oscars and has won several European film awards and deservedly so as this is one of the year’s finest films.
Cinemagoers will immediately see a resemblance between this film and Sophia Coppola’s flawed but intoxicating 1999 adaptation of Jeffrey Eugenides novel, The Virgin Suicides. As in that film the plot of Mustang revolves around flailing attempts to repress teenage female sexuality. In the Virgin Suicides it was in a conservative Catholic household in 1970’s Michigan, in Mustang it’s in a conservative Muslim household in contemporary Turkey. Here five teenage girls, living with their authoritarian uncle in provincial Turkey, are forced into domestic lockdown and subjected to increasingly oppressive conditions when they start to express themselves like normal adolescents. Taken out of school they are eventually imprisoned behind barred windows and high walls which inevitably leads to rebellion and tragedy.
Deniz Gamze Ergüven who also co-wrote the film, has created a tight, efficient and often moving story that never loses its grip on the viewer. Eguyen employs a realistic low-key filmmaking style, punctuated with some confronting and even shocking sequences. Particularly impressive is the way Erguyen intersperses the girl’s life of domestic imprisonment with moments of exultation such as when they escape to watch a football game.
The girls’ performances, particularly that of Günes Sensoy who plays the youngest daughter Lale, are terrific as they capture a convincing mix of innocence, precociousness and sexual awakening as well as an uplifting energy that defies the grim circumstances of their physical and social confinement.
Through these characters Erguyen makes a potent statement about a social structure that, through arranged marriages and enforced obedience to men, enslaves young women in a life of domestic servitude
Mustang is at once a compelling drama, a disturbing piece of social commentary and a moving statement of youthful defiance.
Nick’s rating: ****.
Director(s): Deniz Gamze Ergüven.
Release date: 23rd June 2016.
Running time: 97 mins.
Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM. Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast. http://subcultureentertainment.com/2014/02/the-good-the-bad-the-ugly-film-show
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