Mustang

 

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From Turkey comes this deeply felt film about the lack of freedom for young girls in that country.

 

Mustang

 

This film about four sisters being brought up by their uncle is set in Turkey where the location is a village beside the Black Sea. These girls may pinch apples but when the uncle tells them off it is not to reprimand them about that. Instead he makes an accusation based on hearsay declaring that they have had indecent contact with boys in the water. What was no more than frolicsome play is misinterpreted, but that’s to be expected in a country where the consequence of such an incident is that checks are made on the girls’ virginity to show that they remain marriageable.

For these sisters home is virtually a place of imprisonment, and one that could be thought of as akin to a factory geared to producing suitable wives ready for arranged marriages. It is this situation and the attempts to rebel against it which make up the film, and it’s a theme that may be unfamiliar in Turkish cinema but lacks freshness when viewed here. The able cast is largely non-professional and the youngsters playing the siblings really do convince as sisters. But, if their fates turn out to differ, there are times when the girls are not that easy to tell apart. Our Little Sister, that other recent release telling of siblings, was far more individual in its characterisations and far more involving too. Here, indeed, I looked in vain for any real surprises as the drama unfolded. If, even so, a number of comic incidents (some of which are connected with a football match set up for female spectators which the girls secretly attend) do offer the unexpected in this context, it has to be said that the blending of these comic elements with the serious drama is awkward.

The filmmaker, Deniz Gamze Ergüven, was present at the screening I attended and one warmed to her. I wish that I could have felt equally positive about her film, but she has said that, in taking material which for her personally was very close to home, she wished to achieve a sense of distance. She may have succeeded all too well because, only partly due to the too obvious use of humour as a counterpoint, I felt unengaged with this version of a story which, despite its familiarity, should have made me care. Ergüven clearly does - and so did many at the screening (women especially) - so don’t take my word for it but try out Mustang for yourself.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON       

  

Cast: Günes Nezihe Sensoy, Doga Zeynep Doguslu, Tugba Sunguroglu, Elit Iscan, Ilayda Akdogan, Nihal Koldas, Ayberk Pekcan, Bahar Kerimoglu, Burak Yigit, Suzanne Marrot, Erol Afsin.

  

Dir Deniz Gamze Ergüven, Pro Charles Gillibert, Screenplay Ergüven and Alice Winocour, Ph David Chizallet and Ersin Gök, Art Dir Serdar Yemisçi, Ed Mathilde Van de Moortel, Music Warren Ellis, Costumes Selin Sözen.

 

CG Cinéma/Vistmar Filmproduktion/Uhlandfilm/Bam Film/Kinology/Canal+/Cine+ etc.-Curzon Film World.
97 mins. France/Germany/Turkey/Quatar. 2015. Rel: 13 May 2016. Cert. 15.