Mustang (Directed by Deniz Gamze Ergüven). 2015.


Five spirited sisters growing up under their grandmother’s wing in rural Turkey at the end of the school year  frolic in the ocean with boys. This innocent activity is reported by a neighbor as something improper which brings a censorious man, the uncle of the girls, to take charge of their upbringing.

Uncle Erol has a different view of how the girls need to be raised, not with loose supervision, but with an eye to the marriage of each. Soon the oldest two have arranged marriages. Next up is the third born, Ece, who begins to act dangerously. How dangerously is the turning point of the story.

The youngest daughter, Lale, is the narrator of the story. She is brave and determined to flee the cage that has been built around her. Fires, engines grinding, walls being built higher with spikes at the top  evoke not just a modern day parable but an ancient fairy tale about escape and freedom.

The five sisters are often entwined with each other in a tangle of limbs, sleeping on each others’ shoulders, stroking each others’ hair. Coming from a family of four sisters, I recognize the pattern of endearment and resentment as the older ones are privy to special information and clothes.


Gunes Sensov

Gunes Sensoy who plays Lale is remarkable. Her eyes register everything with knowing.  But it is an ensemble cast, and each girl (Tugba Sunguroglu, Ilayda Akdogan, Doga Zeynep Doguslu, Elit Iscan) contributes mightily to the feeling of women needing to be free.  Besides being beautifully shot in rural Turkey near the sea which represents freedom, there is just the right amount of assistance for the girls — in the form of some sympathetic older relatives, and an amused truck driver — to keep the story from becoming melodramatic and tragic.


Deniz Gamze Erguven is a first time director


About Patricia Markert

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