We were all haunted and mesmerised back in 1999 by Sofia Coppola’s ‘The Virgin Suicides’. The film took us to a time, a place and a series of events that, while shocking, we always knew was a work of fiction. Well today, sometimes such events aren’t a work of fantasy. They’re a very real possibility and a reality faced everyday in certain parts of the world. The Oscar-nominated film ‘Mustang’ is its own ‘The Virgin Suicides’ set today, in a remote northern Turkish village.
On the last day of school, five teenage sisters head to the beach with some male classmates to do what kids do best - play, frolic and enjoy their youth. When their antics are misconstrued as provocative and lewd behaviour by a neighbour, the sisters’ grandmother and overbearing uncle turn their home into a prison. The girls spend their days training for marriage and struggle to hold onto their youth, spirit and independence while still conforming to their cultural duties.
This is director Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s first feature film; she also co-wrote the screenplay along with Alice Winocour. Her first horse out of the gate is sensational - ranging between laughter and downright rage against the injustices portrayed on screen. Four of the five young ladies Ergüven has assembled are fellow first-timers, adding to the impetuousness and innocence of the girls they’re portraying. Each actress is striking and effortless and can provoke an audience's laughter or tears at will.
While obviously the story is harrowing at times, it’s also inspiring and it leads to some serious thought provocation.
While obviously the story is harrowing at times, it’s also inspiring and it leads to some serious thought provocation. With each of the five sisters being so close in age, the film almost plays out like a "choose your own adventure", with each possible outcome offered and explored to see who came survive such human cruelty and sexual inequality.
Beautiful in every sense of the word, ‘Mustang’ has earned each and every one of its accolades, and there’s surely only more to come from this gang of newcomers.