Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Film: 'Mustang'

I can't recall ever having seen a film before entirely in the Turkish language, and this Oscar-nominated one was a really good place to start.

Set in a small town on the Black Sea coast of Turkey, five orphaned sisters, ranging in age from (I'm guessing) about 11 to 16, attending the same 'westernised', mixed-sex school are returning home one day and get into some high-spirited, completely innocent, larking around with some boy pupils, including being carried on the boys' shoulders. Their play is disapprovingly seen by a neighbour who reports it to their staunchly conservative grandmother who, in the absence of parents, has raised the girls, together with their (widowed?) uncle. She is horrified at hearing of their conduct, and on the girls' return home, physically chastises each of them in turn. The two adults clearly believe that girls should be brought up to be demure, dignified, ever-obedient, subservient to men - and, most importantly, to remain in a virginal state until being married to the young men who have been chosen for them. The girls' western-type dress is, at least in public, replaced by more modest attire, though when they are alone at home the sisters retain their fashionable, teenage wear, including bikinis, as well as their youthful ebullience and boisterousness towards each other. Meanwhile, 'corrupting' influences such as computer and their telephones, are locked away out of reach. While their uncle puts up fences and barbed wire around their detached country house, and bars the windows, making it a virtual prison, the girls do manage to find ways to sneak out secretly, the elder ones engaging in illicit friendships. The two adult guardians see it as a priority to get them all married off, sometimes to young men they haven't even seen until their engagement is announced.

In spite of the bleakness of subject matter, there are a few genuinely comic moments - though particularly in the latter part of the film, it does just touch onto some very dark places.

Director/co-writer Deniz Erguven works marvels with her mainly young, all-Turkish cast in this clash-of-cultures film. If I have any criticism it's that with seven or eight principal characters there isn't the time or opportunity to delve much more than fairly shallowly into the personality of any single one of them, so any insight into their feelings must necessarily be quite superficial. But that goes with the nature of the story.

I'd been of two minds whether to bother to see this or not. I'm pleased that I did......................7.


  1. It sounds like an interesting glimpse into a different culture, and their own problems within that culture.

    1. It's precisely that, Bob. I'm wondering which countries have banned it being shown. Maybe even Turkey itself, for all I know. But it's that what has added to its interest.