Saturday, December 19, 2015

Movie with Abe: Mustang

Directed by Deniz Gamze Ergüven
Released November 20, 2015

Childhood, teenage years, and young adulthood are particularly influential times for people. They shape so many aspects of what an adult will eventually become, culling together personality traits, opinions, and values based on experiences, interactions, and observing what others do. In many cultures, how children grow up can be extremely different and influenced heavily by the dominant religious or political landscapes. The Turkish-French film “Mustang” is an enlightening and intriguing look at how five young sisters find their own upbringing shaped by the customs of their family and the irreversible moments that lead them through life.

When we first meet Lale, Selma, Ece, Nur, and Sonay, the youngest among them, Lale, who is most accurately the film’s primary protagonist, says goodbye to a favorite teacher headed from their small village in Turkey to the major city of Istanbul before the girls walk home, stopping along the way to play in the water with some boys. Their behavior is discovered by their grandmother and uncle, and their flaunting of modest values gets them permanently shut in to their home, imprisoned until they will all eventually be sent off for marriage. They still all have each other and can see sunlight through the bars put on their windows, but the outside world, for them, is no longer a daily part of their lives.

“Mustang” is a focused, character-driven film that shows how these five young girls, who range in age, react to their new reality. None of them quite adapt, since a life spent in confinement and without access to other people and places can hardly be described as a life at all. Most engage in minimally rebellious activities, dressing in clothing their elders would certainly not approve of when no one is around, and occasionally true revolt is practiced with a secretive trip outside the boundaries of the house. Training sessions on how to become a good wife hardly make up for the lack of any true enriching activities in their lives.

This film, which is France’s official submission for Best Foreign Film at the Oscars this year and a Golden Globe nominee already, has a deceptive title that casts it as something completely different than what it is. Advanced civilization is a faraway concept in this tale of desolation told through the starry eyes of Lale, who is extremely smart and perceptive for her age, yet hopelessly unaware of what truly exists in the world. All five young actresses deliver mature, thoughtful performances in this involving, thought-provoking exploration of repression, individuality, and how much value society-imposed definitions of modesty really have.


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