Mustang - An Intimate Examination at an Archaic Society
The essence of human nature is to maintain power and control. The system has often tipped in favor of Caucasian males, mainly because a select few have fixed it to do so. This has continued to be the way things were for several centuries. Within the past 50 years, civil rights movements have redistributed that power to, in some areas, to more than just one group. That hasn’t happened everywhere, and the film Mustang follows five sisters as their uncle and grandmother seize control of their every action and begins marrying them off. It is an emotional experience, as you bond with these five girls as they have their lives seized away from them. They are lovable kids, and it’s easy to decide how you feel about their situation, but there’s a lot more to the strengths of Mustang.
After a walk home coming back from school, Lale and her four sisters are locked in their house by their uncle and grandmother. They begin to instruct them in homemaking and this steadily overtakes school. Eventually they begin arranging marriages and marrying the girls off. Mustang plays like the Rapunzel story with the female libido adopting the role of Rapunzel.
I appreciate that these are the most likable teenagers I’ve seen in a movie in a while. The bond between these girls is real, and it is layered. When they are together, their spirits are indestructible, it is only when their uncle begins to marry some of the older ones off that things become dire. Even then they are resourceful kids, Mustang makes decisions that I wish more movies made, in that its characters do and say smart things and that the film itself is smarter than the audience watching it.
But there’s more of an emotional wavelength going on with Mustang that I have yet to touch upon. That is the autobiographical element. Director Deniz Gamze Erguven sought to portray the female experience in Turkish society (which is predominately male dominated). The title is deliberate, Erguven says in an interview that Mustang evokes a wild animal roaming free. It is a testament to what it means to be a woman in a male dominated country. Such is the story of both the film and its director. Because only when these girls truly give up have they declared their loss.
Mustang places a lot of stock in the bonds of family that tie these sisters together. It is the one thing they absolutely refuse to be robbed of and it is where they draw their strength from. Even when bad things happen and it looks like the five will be separated forever, they hang tight to each other.
Mustang is a masterpiece and the distinct work of an auteur. It is the kind of movie you show your friend who is certain of the death of visionary driven-cinema. It is a movie of hidden depth that I plan to revisit many times over and its one of the best films of 2015.