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Sunday, February 28

Mustang or the loss of innocence

When a house full of joy, youth and innocence suddenly turns into a wife factory, spirits gets crushed and monsters get out of the closets. And like all monsters, they wear the attire of traditionalism, respectability, and morality. Same old, same old, yet Mustang gives a refreshing view on all things beautiful.


First, there are five lively sisters who celebrate the beginning of their summer vacation by swimming in the sea alongside their male classmates. A neighbor sees them and misinterprets their behavior so their grandma punishes them and no longer allows them to leave the house. The five girls are in the care of their uncle who decides to marry them off to preserve their honor and save himself some trouble. In fact, girls, grandma and uncle all have a hidden agenda. The rest of the story is predictable, tragic and painful. Mustang is an honest, natural view at life at it is, with its struggles and disappointments, unfiltered beauty and pain. 

The movie has the amazing score of Warren Ellis, a talented musician with experience in movie music and former partner of Nick Cave. Its tunes puncture the highs and lows in the story and mix beautifully with the scenery of rural Turkey. Summer is in full ripe, girls are candid, intimate and uninhibited. They riot against the adults'choices and break free. When they can no longer escape the barred windows, they turn inside and survive. Or not, depending on the depth of their hidden wounds. 

Directed by Deniz Gamze Erguven, Mustang is magic due to its sweetness and silent beauty. There is a sense of abandonment in the girls, who come out in unity, a one-being sisterhood of life, only to emerge on their own, once crisis burst out and initial balance is upset. Together they stand impenetrable, divided, they either succeed or fail in contouring their identity. Their own bond reverberates with the older women's identity in the episode of the soccer game escape. The girls enjoy their last getaway together and grandma and the women around the houses that teach them how to grow into meaningful wives, cover up their traces and rally with them against manhood, restrictions and male privileges.   

Strength lies in victory and failure alike and each girl passes an imaginary torch to the next, inside an inner ripple of traditionalism and religious boundaries. The story is narrated by the youngest, Lale, too young to be married off, too stubborn to accept her fate. She is the one whose character gets more focus and better crayoning to the my disappointment. I felt curious about the rest of the sisters, and longing to get more intimate with them. Also, their confined world and the pressure seemed familiar as other Turkish movies depict the women's struggle to escape arranged marriages and harrowing circumstances. Yet, there is also a shred of humor and kindness in the movie -the teacher who goes to Istanbul, the truck driver who teaches Lale to drive, the wedding ceremony that allows the two youngest sisters to escape. It feels as if the director tried to compensate for the tragedy and the misfortunes in their young lives. Nevertheless, one cannot escape the pressure of having others decide what is best for you and making choices in somebody else's name under the false pretenses of love and care. All these and then something make Mustang a necessary movie, one picture that voices injustice and the need to break loose from the hypocrisy that defines religious, traditional family life.
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