Where The Virgin Suicides views its female characters from the outside, through a distinctly adolescent male gaze, Mustang aligns itself with the young women themselves. Ergüven’s characters are orphans, raised by their grandmother and constantly threatened by their vile uncle, in a village on Turkey’s coast. Events unfold from their perspective, and it’s rare that any scene just involves adults. We feel that we know the sisters in a way that we don’t Coppola’s leads.
Following an accusation of lasciviousness by one of their neighbours, the sisters are shut inside the house where their family conspire to marry them off one by one in what becomes a horrifying and brutal ritual. The atmosphere conjured for most of the film is one of stultification; of over-warm rooms, of sun-parched gardens viewed from high windows, and of repression made bearable by sisterly companionship.
The young cast do well to convey this camaraderie, and their familiarity is remarkably convincing. Güneş Şensoy is particularly excellent as Lale, the youngest of the five and the most desperate to escape. She plays the film’s central role with real panache.
As Mustang progresses, the atmosphere darkens, before descending into chaos on one fateful wedding night. It’s a terrifying scene, fraught with tension. But unfortunately what follows feels rather truncated. There’s a sense that the film ends too soon, and rather too abruptly.
If we feel cheated, though, it’s only because the film has drawn us in, powerfully depicting the family’s refusal to come to terms with the sisters’ maturity. It certainly marks Ergüven as a very promising new director.
Mustang UK release date: 13 May 2016
|Mustang film review
|Various Locations | MAP
|Leicester Square (underground)
13 May 16 – 13 Jul 16, 12:00 PM – 12:00 AM
|Click here to go to the film's IMDB page