Reviews - Mustang
Reviewed By Vaughan Ames
This all takes place in a small town in Turkey, where Muslim values, very different to our own, have it that girls have to be virginally perfect and subservient ("what happened to the girls who blushed when we looked at them?" says one man). The five girls – whose mother has died 10 years earlier – suffer more and more as their uncle gets involved too: they are at first just locked into the house and all 'corrupting influences' (mobile phones, computers, modern clothing...) removed, before the windows are barred as the girls are trained to be good wives – "the house became a wife factory" as Lale, the youngest, tells us, as the narrator of the story. As the girls learn these skills, the locals bring their sons round to propose marriage...
This is a feminist tale with no apologies. The girls are downtrodden by virtually every man in their lives, but, you will be pleased to know they gradually learnt to fightback, especially Lale, who would have received a standing ovation if she had arrived in person in Keswick! For English minds, the men seemed, at best, stupid, at worst downright evil; indeed good, moral Uncle Erol is seen sneaking into two of the girls bedrooms late at night with obvious intent. One girl later commits suicide.
The film cleverly has great moments of comedy thrown in to lighten the mood, and a superb break for freedom by the last two girls who have not been married off; lead by the indomitable Lale, she and Nur first barricade themselves inside the house as Nur's wedding party arrives outside, before wonderfully just walking out of the front door whilst the men are trying to break in the back. Lale has preplanned the escape of course, and won over Yasin - a van driver - earlier to get him to teach her to drive; they steal Erol's car and set off for Ankara. In case this seems a little too farfetched to be possible, she crashes the car just down the road and they hide... once more, Yasin rides to their rescue in his van (thank goodness for ONE good man!! He is, of course, young and long-haired...) and they escape on the bus to the capital.
As I said, there is no apology for the feminism here, nor should there be. The girls seem to be well brought up and well-mannered and it is only the local customs that bring about their downfall. As a man, I was horrified at the attitudes of the men here; as a westerner I was horrified at the older women too; this film brilliantly shows what can happen if girls are expected 'to know their place', to be just 'future wives'. OK, it was very black and white, but by taking this line it left little room to see anything correct about the attitudes, or anything wrong with the girls responses (if only the two who married early on had refused as well! Maybe the third girl's life could have been spared and they could all have escaped to Ankara...).
As a film, the mix of politics and drama, of comedy and thriller made it very watchable too; it was the Turkish nomination for Best Foreign Film at the Oscars, so maybe even they can see the need to change...
The Keswick audience loved it and, for me, I have a new hero: "Go Lale! Don't let them grind you down!"
Next week we have the Danish Oscar entry, 'A War' from the writer of 'Borgen' and 'The Hunt' and the writer/director of 'A Hijacking', which promises to be another great night.
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