Directed by Deniz Gamze Erguven
Starring Gunes Sensoy, Doga Zeyneo Doguslu, Iyada Akdogan
The French nomination for the 2016 Best Foreign Film Oscar, with a slew of international awards to it’s name, Mustang certainly has expectations to live up to.
After simple child’s play becomes exaggerated by scandalous gossip, five orphan sisters find themselves imprisoned in their grandmother’s home in rural Turkey. The youngest Lale (Gunes Sensoy) hates the “wife factory” that she finds her home to have become, and plots to escape the house before she is married off like her sisters.
This is impeccable visual storytelling. Mustang has an economy of style about it, getting across a great deal of information in very little time. A couple of images, and we are conveyed a wealth of story. Erguven gives just enough for audiences to follow, trusting in them to understand what is going on, never feeling the need for them to play catch up. This allows the film to cover the lives of the five sisters in just over an hour and a half of run time, but never feels confusing or truncated in doing so.
There is also a beauty in the visuals, going some way in mollifying the harsh conditions surrounding the sisters. Although the camera is kept in close, emphasising that sense of claustrophobia and imprisonment, it is often bathed in light and colour. It is as if the cinematography, while reminding us of the prison that the house has become, also wants us to have hope.
It is a hope that comes from both inner strength and connections with others. Mustang is a story about sisterhood, centered around the character of Lale. The youngest of the sisters, she is our eyes and ears into this world, and it is her fierce determination that drives us on. Gunes Sensoy nails her colours to the mast with this dogged portrayal, surprising in one so young. Through this young view we are given an insight to the roles of women in this world that is surprisingly nuanced. We slowly realise things ain’t always exactly as they appear on the surface and that people will use the power they have, no mater how subtle. Hence the motivations of certain characters may not be as they initially appear.
A beautiful and poignant insight into the world of woman trapped by conservative attitudes. There is much that is surprising and shocking here, but there is also a wondrous sense of playfulness and solidarity. For first time director Deniz Gamze Erguven brings us a moving and personal piece.