Early summer. In a village in northern Turkey, Lale and her four sisters are walking home from school, playing innocently with some boys. The immorality of their play sets off a scandal that has unexpected consequences. The family home is progressively transformed into a prison; instruction in homemaking replaces school and marriages start being arranged. The five sisters who share a common passion for freedom, find ways of getting around the constraints imposed on them.Written by
Festival de Cannes
The girls want to go to the Galatasaray-Trabzon match. They say to Yasin that they need to go to Trabzon. However, later when we see them on TV, the score shows Galatasaray's (GS) name first which means the match is in Istanbul not in Trabzon. See more »
"If they are sullied it is your fault!" Dad to Grandma in a religiously-conservative Turkish household.
Five beautiful Turkish sisters in the exquisite film, Mustang, endure torture sometimes mentally unbearable (for them and the audience) as they suffer the consequences of playing innocently in the sea with a few lads. Grandma, as you can see in the quote above, suffers as she wrestles with the old against the new.
While I have heard that around the world conservatism can be unfair to women, this Turkish setup is both realistic and unreal at the same time: Marrying off young women as a way of curbing their youthful vigor—strict but effective in a conservative world where virginity before marriage is a necessity and non-virginity a death sentence, at least metaphoric and sometimes literal, I fear. A scene in the hospital checking a girl's virginity after her honeymoon is disturbing.
Writer/director Deniz Gamze Erguven and writer Alice Winocour have crafted a story for the ages about how women continue at the hands of patriarchs and the establishment to suffer the loss of freedoms we take for granted. Pre-teen Lale (Gunes Sensoy) witnesses the steady peeling off of her sisters for marriage while she plots an exit she hopes will scale the iron gates and gratings her Uncle has constructed to short-circuit their rampant joie-de-vivre.
It's not so much the realism (but unreal beautiful girls—now, come on casting, do they have to be that good looking? Hey, wait, my 5 daughters were!). That bit of implausibility is neutralized by a sense of conservative Turkish life as accurately showing the prisons young women can inhabit, called home. Each occurrence of sisters' showing spunk or plain life seems countered by old women steering them into lives of virtue, namely serving men.
Yet, girls will not easily be contained: Young Lale secretly learns how to drive in order one day to bolt to liberal Istanbul. The film balances this rebellion against the girls' increasing imprisonment. Although some might liken the Mustang girls to the five Lisbon sisters of Sofia Coppola's The Virgin Suicides, the difference is in the cultures: The Lisbon sisters were living some of the dream, and the Mustang girls never had it at all.
Then there is my favorite Australian film, Picnic at Hanging Rock, in which school girls vanish into the rock. That's probably figurative for the evanishing innocence of teenage girls but more probably how some cultures are hell bent on making women just fade away.
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