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A well deserved punch in the stomach of conservatism
R-Clercx20 October 2015
I just saw this movie in a nearly full capacity packed 300 seat theater. Very rarely I rate 10 out of 10, but this piece of film art blew me away from beginning to end, so what more can a viewer expect out of cinema.

Five teenagers grow up in a very conservative Turkish village. From early age it is expected that they will marry with a boy the elders prefer, rather than loose themselves in foolish romance. What makes the movie so appealing is the outstanding acting performances of the five teenagers and the realistic way the plot develops. Mustang at the same time offers a laugh and a tear; the viewer is offered the perspective of young ladies growing up, discovering their sexuality and being told that this is a bad thing.

Of course some critics will argue that this movie might give viewers a wrong impression about Turkey. This kind of criticism would be the same as stating when a director portrays a story about any kind of bad situation in a certain country, a viewer might get a wrong impression about the country as a whole. This way not one movie should be set in any country in the world because some viewers will always generalize a specific situation.

This movie is clearly set in a small rather isolated agricultural village in Turkey; it clearly isn't set in Istanbul (the more modern capital of Turkey). The director also does a very good job of not pointing the finger towards Islam (the main religion in Turkey).

What is questioned in this movie is not so much about religion, it is conservatism as a concept which is questioned.

A must see movie, one of the best if not the best I've seen in 2015 and the only one I saw in 2015 I rate 10/10.
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Coming of age feminist fairy tale.
ClaraBosswald27 September 2015
Mustang is a Turkish movie inspired by Sofia Coppola's Virgin Suicides. It takes place in a remote village in Turkey and follows the story of five sisters whose very conservative family slowly takes away all forms of 'perversion' away from them in order to make them 'suitable wives'.

The movie doesn't beat you over the head with its feminist message but lets the drama unfold naturally. The tone is surprisingly sweet and even funny in places for a movie with such a subject matter. First time director Deniz Gamze Ergüven has a strong grip on tone; she never allows the movie to become too gritty for its own good. The girls are not defined by the plot like it's often the case with this type of movies; they have moments of laughs and happiness which never undermine the seriousness of the subject matter.

The performances from the lead actresses are phenomenal. The youngest girl blew me away - not once do you feel like she's acting. Their performances is what make them so distinctive from each other and not just stand-ins for Oppressed Muslim Girls TM like it's often the case.

Mustang is easily one of the best feminist movies of the year, proudly sitting next to The Diary of a Teenage Girl. It's sincere and heartfelt, it's not preachy but honest and it shows great premise for the future of its director. Don't miss it!
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A great film but a bit overrated
vmilenkovic200522 December 2015
Even though i assume not many people will read this i'm going to put a disclaimer first. I honestly don't mind if this is a 100% real representation of Turkish culture or not, and it doesn't need to be, no live action film does, this isn't a documentary. Simply put, if it successfully tells a good story then the film did its job and i'm happy with it. Also, i heard many people online hated the movie only because it had some direct feminist themes, the hate is highly undeserved,not only because that isn't a valid enough reason, but because the film doesn't bang you over the head with its messages, and there are many more universal themes weaved in the narrative structure of the film. Now that thats out of the way lets get into the review.

The film tells the tale about five young free spirited sisters living in a conservative Turkish household, and the friction regarding the relationship between them and their uncle and grandmother. it's a touching story about the generational gap that exists between them, and the need for the sisters to find their place in life that isn't determined by their family. Technical aspects of the film are quite superb, to my eye the editing was professional, and the cinematography beautiful, the sombre soundtrack goes hand in hand with the story of the film, and the acting was at least as far ass i could tell very good, although i cant be sure since i don't speak Turkish. One of the first things i noticed when i watched the film is that the family relations depicted in the film bear a striking resemblance to an old conservative Serbian family, which doesn't come as a big surprise since the Turks practically ruled our lands for five centuries, and that is one of the main reasons i would recommend this to anyone who was raised in a Balkan country which was occupied by the Turks, because i think they will find some interesting parallels.

What bothered me the most about the film was the fact that certain characters weren't very developed, specifically the teacher, and the driver that frequently helps the younger sister, i simply wished that the script devoted more time to explaining their motivation. Also the ending seamed very unexpected, and not in a good way, it simply wasn't foreshadowed enough for it to be satisfying.

All in all i think this is a worthy contender for the academy award, and it made me very interested in the future career of Deniz Gamze Ergüven, the director of the film, she is a talented woman with a bright future regarding the world of cinema, i wish her the best of luck.
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Downbeat Account of Village Life in Northern Turkey
l_rawjalaurence27 October 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Set in a remote village in Kastamonu, northern Turkey, about two hundred kilometers from the capital, Ankara, MUSTANG is the story of five daughters finishing school at the end of the summer and trying to cope with their family's demands. Custom dictates that once a girl reaches a certain age, she should be married off; hence the three oldest daughters are exposed to the ritual of meeting their partner (chosen for them by their family) and his family and listening to the groom's family asking for her hand in marriage. Rings are exchanged; and everyone looks forward to the festivities, when the entire village has a wild party, the men fire shots into the air, and the "happy" couple enjoy themselves ... that is, until the dreaded wedding night ritual.

Deniz Gamze Ergüven's debut feature takes an even-handed approach towards its material. While certainly sympathizing with the girls (the narration of Lale, the youngest (Güneş Şensoy) provides an accurate indication of their feelings), the director also makes it clear that the arranged marriage of a teenage girl is part of the village custom. Nobody ever dares to challenge it, because that might destroy the fabric of everyone's lives. Western audiences might consider it a primitive ritual that does not take the girls' feelings into account, but this is a different culture with its own particular traditions. The grandmother (Nihal G. Koldaş) makes this point clear when she tells Nur (Doğa Zeynep Doguşlu) that she was married as a teenager many years previously and "grew to love" her husband once the knot had been tied.

Yet MUSTANG also has some trenchant points to make about the ways in which such traditions can be abused. Uncle Erol (Ayberk Pekcan) turns out to be a sadist as well as an abuser, whose sole response to the girls' wanting some kind of freedom is to build higher and higher walls round the house and install bars across the windows. This is a futile gesture; the more he creates a prison, the more the girls try to escape from it. There is a touching sequence early on in the film as all five daughters escape from their home and catch a bus taking female soccer supporters to Trabzon on the Black Sea coast to watch a match. Their enjoyment is both palpable and welcome.

In the end Nur decides not to go through with her arranged marriage; together with Lale they barricade themselves in the family home and manage to escape Uncle Erol's clutches at last. No one - least of all the viewers - knows precisely what will happen to them, but they have at least managed to exercise freedom of choice. The downside, of course, is that they have also endangered the stability of their village community. This ambiguity is not resolved by the film's end.

Director Ergüven coaxes some remarkable performances out of her five youthful actors as the daughters. Her cinematic style is brisk, even though there are perhaps too many extreme close-ups that draw our attention away from the characters' expressions rather than focusing on them. Nonetheless MUSTANG is a powerful film, a Turkish version of JEUNE ET JOLIE (2013), perhaps.
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SindreKaspersen16 December 2015
Turkish-French screenwriter and director Deniz Gamze Ergüven's feature film debut which she wrote with French screenwriter and director Alice Winocour, is inspired by her aspiration to depict what it is like to be a woman in Turkey. It premiered in the 47th Directors' Fortnight section at the 68th Cannes International Film Festival in 2015, was screened in the Special Presentations section at the 40th Toronto International Film Festival in 2015, was shot on locations in Turkey and is a Turkey-France-Germany co-production which was produced by producer Charles Gillibert. It tells the story about an adolescent girl named Lale.

Distinctly and subtly directed by Turkish-French filmmaker Deniz Gamze Ergüven, this quietly paced fictional tale which is narrated by the main character and interchangeably from multiple viewpoints, draws a pensively humane portrayal of sisters by circumstance, living with foster carers in a village in the Republic of Turkey, whom after being young girls which involves playing with boys at their school and causing a consequential situation, is introduced to housework, virginity tests and arranged marriages. While notable for its distinctly atmospheric milieu depictions and cinematography by cinematographer David Chizallet and Ersin Gök, this character-driven and narrative-driven story about the towering will and the freedom of the child where a sweepingly generalizing comment is uttered about feminists not understanding and denouncing maternity which is as generalizing as saying that every mother denounces all single women or vice-versa or that every mother is or have to be an anti-feminist because she has chosen to become a parent and a she in agonizing reluctance has to say goodbye to her mother, depicts some studies of character and contains a great and timely score by composer Warren Ellis.

This charmingly youthful, immediately engaging and conscientious realization which is set in Turkey in the 21st century and where a daughter joins four orphaned sisters named Nur, Ece, Sonay and Selma, clothing suits better than custom, sisterhood inspires and remains and motherly attachment surpasses, is impelled and reinforced by its cogent narrative structure, substantial character development, rhythmic continuity, natural humor, majestic scenes of Lale and Istanbul and the unconstrained acting performance by newcomer Güneş Nezihe Şensoy. A whole-heartedly narrative feature which gained, among other awards, the Europa Cinema Labels award at the 68th Cannes Film Festival in 2015.
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Girl Power
ferguson-631 January 2016
Greetings again from the darkness. Writer/director Deniz Gamze Erguven admits to being inspired by Sophia Coppola's 1999 The Virgin Suicides (though this is not a remake), and by offering us a rare glimpse into the lives of five sisters in a rural community in Turkey, it's clear why the film has been so well received at film festivals – culminating in an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Film. It's a bit confusing that the film is credited to France (Ms. Erguven's current place of residence) as it takes place in Turkey and is performed in Turkish. But of course, country of origin is a minor ripple in this year's uproar over diversity at the Oscars.

Not being any type of expert in Turkey culture or customs, I must accept that the insights provided by Ms. Erguven and her co-writer Alice Winocour are somewhat accurate, which makes the balance between the tradition of female oppression and the amazing spirit of the girls so relatable for many. What begins as a seemingly harmless game of chicken the girls play with some classmates (boys) on the way home after the semester's last day of classes, turns into a series of events that most will find absolutely unacceptable. The shame brought to the family and the threat of the girls being "spoiled" highlights the extreme reactions from their grandmother (Nihal G Koldas) and Uncle Erol (Ayberk Pekcan).

Lale (Gunes Sensoy) is the youngest of the sisters and in the end proves to be the toughest and most independent. And that's really saying something. We take in much of what happens through Lale's expressive eyes, and we as viewers long for reasonableness to enter their lives. After being what can only be described as imprisoned in their own home, the spirit of the girls collectively and individually becomes clear. They find ways, small and large, to rebel … but it's soon enough clear that the mission is to marry the girls off before it's too late (there's that "spoiled" thing again).

As Lale witnesses what her older sisters are subjected to, and how happiness or their own wishes play no role, she becomes more determined to avoid such destiny. With skewed perspective, one might make the argument that Grandmother and Uncle are doing what they think is in the long term best interests of the girls, but the Uncle's despicable actions void any such thought. Instead we are left to marvel at the strength and spirit of the girls in world that holds them in such low regard as individuals.

Lale's sisters are Sonay (IIayda Akdogan), Nur (Doga Zeynep Doguslu), Selma (Tugba Sunguroglu) and Ece (Elit Iscan). The girls are so natural together that we never doubt their sisterly bond. They argue like sisters, defend each other as sisters, and play together like sisters … were it not for their isolated existence, their bond would be a joy to behold. The cinematography throughout the film adds to the discomfort and dread we feel, and the acting is naturalistic and believable. In the end, it's the unbridled freedom of the titular creature that Lale defiantly embraces … whatever the consequences may be.
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Spirited youngest sister resists patriarchal authority
maurice_yacowar10 March 2016
Warning: Spoilers
A street scene at the end of Mustang catches the central theme. As the two girls approach their former teacher's Istanbul flat they walk between two signs. On the left is some Turkish graffiti, on the right a store sign in English: "Objects of Desire." That catches the five sisters' dilemma: they are caught between Turkey's post-secular culture, which Erdogan has returned to harsh Islam, and the West's open sexuality that the earlier modernization had brought into Turkey. Both are abusive by defining women by gender alone.

The five orphaned sisters live with their indulgent grandmother and abusive uncle. When a neighbour complains about the girls' wild play with boys from their school the sisters are virtually imprisoned to protect their "honour." Their home is turned into "a marriage factory." Women come in to train them to be traditional wives. i.e., submissive homemakers.

The sisters' career follows a pattern of arranged marriage. The oldest gets to marry the boy she loves. The second submits to a loveless marriage, in which her hymen survives the defloration. The third kills herself rather than submitting. The fourth rebels on her wedding night and — led by the youngest, who has the unbroken spirit of the mustang — escapes to Istanbul and the modern woman's independence.

In their village the men have all the power. To confirm the patriarchy's total control the uncle has been sodomizing at least two of the nieces he ostensibly protects. Male violence spoils the football game too, so that the next game is played to an arena full of women. The women may agree to a marital match but only the men can command it. When the men shoot their pistols into the air at a wedding it's a macho strut. The unbroken hymen contradicts the pretence to male potency.

Against this institutionalized power Turkish woman director Deniz Erguven posits an implicit sisterhood. Even after the grandmother has raged at the sisters' behaviour she defends them against her son's anger. Still, she confiscates the computers and cell phones that presumably she has allowed them to live modern lives. The older women collaborate to prevent the men's discovering that the girls have escaped to attend the football game. In Istanbul the girl asking a local woman for directions calls her "Big sister," presumably a familiar colloquialism.

The exuberance and camaraderie of the five sisters is a model for a radical, interdependent sisterhood. This French-German-Turkish production addresses the religious suppression of women not just in Turkey but in the Middle East, indeed everywhere but Israel. Of course the problem rages well beyond that region.
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important film
hasank23 December 2015
Mustang tackles with Turkey's most important problem, the issue of woman in society: her secondary place and the patriarchal chains around her, due to culture, politics, religion and socio-economic development. Therefore, the director's effort should be viewed as most welcome and needed attempt. I think the director manages to show the virtual prison experienced by all sort of women in our society, through the case of those sisters.

However, and despite the director's best intention, movie in general fails to deliver an authentic picture of everyday life and details in the country. Oppression of girls and their youthful desires is correctly depicted as a whole, but done in somewhat unrealistic ways. You get the feeling that the director, the script writer, and even the actors remain quite "foreigners" to the situations they are interested. Some are accusing the director as orientalist (playing to Western gaze) because of these failings. I don't agree, but it would be better if they had worked more on the everyday life and details of the countryside where the film occurs (like better local dialogue, better acquaintance of local customs).

In short, I found Mustang a very important movie, but with its own problems. Technically it does not offer something novel, but it is courageous directly to point the gender issue in a very conservative society.
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Socially riveting tale
Red_Identity12 February 2016
A film like this can work on many levels, and surely not just on a basic entertainment factor. It's intriguing because it sets up situations and dilemmas that different sections of the world may entirely reveal shock at it, but these sort of situations can be unfortunate for all involved. Gender issues are at the forefront here and the writing cleverly touches on the issue, along with sexuality as a whole, while creating well-developed characters that serve to guide us through the fascinating, intriguing tale. The entire film is well-directed, a lot of nuance in the proceedings as well as a delicate hand that may have spiraled out of control in the hands of another director. The acting is also uniformly good, and all of the young female characters (in particular the lead) handle the heavy material really well.
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"Mustang" is a great title for a great example of a foreign film.
dave-mcclain8 March 2016
According to Wikipedia, "The English word mustang is derived from the Spanish word mestengo (variant of mesteño), defined as 'wild, stray, ownerless'." The image and idea of a wild, ownerless horse has inspired imaginations throughout the western world and led to the word mustang representing sports cars, airplanes, ships, cities, sports teams and even used by artists, musicians, businesses and by some politicians who consider themselves rogue agents of change. 2015 added to the word's long list of uses the French-Turkish drama "Mustang" (PG-13, 1:37), which became France's submission for the 88th Annual Academy Awards and was nominated for (and was a strong contender for) the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. Given its subject matter and quality, "Mustang" is a great name for a great film.

The movie explores the relationships and lives of five adolescent sisters living in the seaside village of Inebolu in north-central Turkey. Inebolu is known for, among other things, the spirited (and successful) defense it mounted when attacked during the Turkish War for Independence. Fittingly, these five girls (played by Güneş Şensoy, Doğa Doğuşlu, Elit İşcan, Tuğba Sunguroğlu and İlayda Akdoğan) are also very spirited. You might even call them wild (in a strongly independent sense), they are kind of ownerless – as orphans living with their grandmother (Nihal Koldaş) and uncle (Ayberk Pekcan) – and they are quite prone to stray from the strict expectations of their strongly conservative society – as much as they can.

When the girls are caught innocently frolicking in the sea with some of their (gasp) male classmates one day after school, their lives change suddenly and dramatically. After much yelling and some beatings from their caregivers, the girls are confined to the house and lose almost all contact with the outside world, except for the people that their uncle and grandmother bring to the house. Telephones and computers are locked in a closet, bars are placed over the windows, clothing the girls chose for themselves are replaced by drab, formless dresses and daily life becomes an endless series of home economics classes in which female relatives come by to teach the girls how to be proper Turkish wives.

Also coming by the house is a parade of single young men with whom grandma begins arranging marriages for the girls. She's starting with the oldest and plans on working her way down the line. The girls, however, have other ideas. Without revealing too much about the rest of the movie, I'll just say that what grandma intends to be a succession of five cookie-cutter weddings doesn't work out exactly the way she and the girls' uncle plan. In spite of instances of abuse and the increasingly severe limitations on their personal freedom, the girls still fight to be themselves, spread their wings, meet boys on their own, keep supporting each other and enjoy each other's company as long as possible.

"Mustang" represents the best in foreign film. Besides co-writing the script, this is French-Turkish filmmaker Deniz Gamze Ergüven's directorial debut and she gives us a film which displays consistently expert tone and pacing. Some of the plot points feel overly dramatic, but this story takes an important look at extremely conservative southwestern Asia societies. Most westerners won't be able to readily relate to the lives of these girls, but the interesting story and very natural performances draw in the audience for an entertaining experience while helping them understand the world in which they live. "Mustang" is also largely a celebration of sisterhood and feminine empowerment, but it's hard to imagine anyone not being touched by this very personal and dramatic story. "A-"
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Turkish born but French raised co-writer/director only captures the facade of a patriarchal Turkish culture
Turfseer20 January 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Mustang was directed and co-written by Turkish born Deniz Gamze Ergüven, who actually grew up in France. The official film organization in Turkey refused to submit Mustang for Oscar consideration so France ended up submitting it to the Academy and it's now been nominated for Best Foreign Language Film. A multitude of film pundits have praised the film no end but have any of them asked how true is Ergüven's story? A casual perusal of the majority of posts on IMDb by Turkish natives maintain that Ergüven's view of the way things are in Turkey as depicted in the film, is inaccurate and superficial.

Mustang is set in İnebolu, in northern Turkey, near the Black Sea. The story concern five sisters who live with their uncle and grandmother in a provincial, conservative town. When we first meet them, the youngest sister, Lale, says goodbye to her teacher who is moving to Istanbul. Propped up on the shoulders of some of their fellow male students, they attempt to knock one another into the water, as they frolic in the ocean. Later word gets back to neighbors that they've been acting inappropriately with "boys" and they're first castigated by their grandmother and later physically abused by their uncle. Ultimately they're forbidden to leave the house and no longer allowed to attend school.

So at this juncture, what's wrong with this picture? As those posters from Turkey point out, the girls don't act like girls who are from the provincial Black Sea area—they're more like girls from an urban environment. Their accents (according to these posters) don't sound right either. Others on the internet liken the girls to the characters in Sophia Coppola's "The Virgin Suicides" and their behavior seemed to me more akin to frat girls in the cheap American exploitation flick, "Girls Gone Wild." Ergüven is clearly the outsider looking in and can only imagine what provincial girls in that part of the world are really like. Most teenage girls have a rebellious streak but would they act out in the manner depicted here—especially when they are growing up in an abusive home? I think not.

What also doesn't ring true is that girls were never reigned in by the grandmother and the abusive uncle when they were very young. They show no fear of retaliation as everything is one big joke—but in a conservative, patriarchal society, one is taught to fear retribution. Therefore, their rebellion would probably take a much more subtle form and they would not be allowed to act out in the way that is depicted here.

As the plot progresses, we realize that Ergüven's approach to character is didactic. The grandmother is also a victim of male perfidy as the uncle holds her responsible for the girls being spoiled. The grandmother's affinity for the arranged marriages is clearly a response to her perception that the uncle is sexually abusing his nieces—marrying them off is her way of protecting them. At the same time, she's intimidated by the uncle, who is basically a cardboard villain in the storyline.

I have no doubt bad things happen to women all over the world and especially in places where sexuality is viewed as something dirty. Ergüven knows about arranged marriages and wisely shows the conflicting attitudes of the first two sisters who are married off (one is ecstatic since she's matched up with her current lover; the other is sullen as she has nothing in common with a husband to be who is a virtual stranger). Still, I would have liked to have known a little bit more about the grooms and the family members. We see them at a distance and one gets the feeling that Ms. Ergüven doesn't know these people hardly at all. She's been quoted as saying that Mustang is a "fairy tale"—but it's clear her story is one of "us vs. them"—agitprop for those who simply want to be on the winning side of a very complex cultural problem.

As for the rest of Mustang—I say spare me the "feel good" histrionics. It all comes down to a most improbable escape on the part of the two younger sisters after another one of them commits suicide. Yes maybe something like that happened on one or two occasions in real life, but I would still say, "not likely." Next time ditch the super villain of an uncle, scratch the suicide and show us the sisters as normal teenagers living in a culture which they feel part of but also yearn to have more opportunities in a society filled with less oppression.
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Turkish Virgin Suicides
lucasversantvoort18 November 2015
Warning: Spoilers
A Turkish version of The Virgin Suicides. I guess that's Mustang in a nutshell: five teenage girls. One insanely conservative family. All in all a recipe for disaster.

It's the last day of school and Lale (the youngest) and her sisters prepare to enjoy their summer holiday. But first, they take a detour. They head to the beach with a couple of local boys and play in the sea. One of the locals apparently noticed this, because the moment they get back, they're treated to what is probably a firm spanking by their stepmother. Their playing with boys is very much frowned upon as their virginities, their 'virtue', the sanctity of their bodies are at stake. The girls, however, refuse to adapt to their step-parents' strict lifestyles and seek out opportunities to live life as they choose even when the house they live in is slowly being transformed (figuratively and literally) into a prison.

Mustang is a tough watch as moments of free-spiritedness and playfulness are quickly interchanged with moments of tension as the girls find themselves, as always, blamed for everything and their freedoms restricted. Their summer activities soon consist of learning domestic activities (cooking and so on) and preparing for arranged marriages.

The best aspect of Mustang is its examination of the oppression of women. Obviously this includes the sisters who are to blame for everything involving sexuality. They are told through TV programs and so on they must protect their chastity and that they must do this and they must do that. It's always them that have to do something and are to blame. The local boys are never punished even though they are spellbound by the other sex as well. They share the same desires, but because more is expected of the girls, they're held to higher standards and punished if any rules are transgressed. This can be seen when one night a few boys stand outside the girls' house and call for them. Not only are the boys not chastised for this unruly behavior, it's the girls who are automatically viewed with suspicion. It's them who have to chase away the drunk hoodlums and pretend they're asleep just to avoid any suspicion.

The film's analysis extends to the mothers and aunts as well. This is where things get even more interesting. Though the first thing we see the stepmother do is punish the girls, we soon learn that this is the last thing she wants to do. We soon find that the women will go to great lengths to cover for the girls. At one point, the girls sneak out to see a football match which the family is also watching at home. One of the women notices them on TV and shortly after, the stepmother smashes the fuses and another one destroys a crucial part of the supply of electricity to the entire village...all so that the stepdad wouldn't notice the girls on TV. This scene is played for laughs, but there's also an undercurrent of profound sadness. The women want to do right by the girls, but are unable to do so under the yoke of the men in their lives and the 'natural order of things'. They are free in that, when push comes to shove, they'll have the children's best interests at heart, but it's a half-freedom in the end.

If all this doesn't exactly sound like a happy night at the movies, then you're not wrong. Nevertheless, it's important to realize the damage this kind of extremely conservative behavior can cause. For the sake of balance, I wish I could say the film treats the stepdad (the symbol of extreme conservatism) with some nuance, but it doesn't really. It fully takes sides with the children and isn't that the right thing to do, in the end?
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A Fearless Celebration Of Womanhood And A Timely Exploration Of Patriarchy & Conservatism
CinemaClown1 April 2016
Undeniably amongst the most powerful, provocative & pragmatic narratives to surface on the silver screen in recent years, Mustang is a beautifully balanced blend of skillful direction, sensible writing & terrific performances that takes a much-needed dig at patriarchy & conservatism and also works as a joyful celebration of sisterhood.

Set in a small Turkish village, the story of Mustang follows five young orphaned sisters whose lives are changed completely when they are caught innocently playing with some boys on a beach, after which their conservative family bars them from going to school anymore and begins marrying them off one by one without their consent.

Co-written & directed by Deniz Gamze Ergüven in what is actually her feature film debut, Mustang takes only a few minutes to establish the strong bond between the siblings before stepping into the realm of absurd social & cultural restraints that snatches away their freedom in the blink of an eye and every restriction imposed upon them turns out to be both nonsensical & unnerving.

The screenplay is no slouch either for it packs in an engaging storyline that smoothly unfolds over the course of its runtime and is filled with meaty characters whose arcs are well-defined plus they exhibit surprising depths. Ergüven's never goes in-your-face with her critical stance on orthodox mentality but simply exposes the challenges women face when growing up in such communities.

The technical aspects are thoroughly refined and work in harmony to further uplift the film's tone & ambiance to its desired level. Camera is expertly utilised, always keeping its focus on the relevant characters, while the bright colour palette reflects the strength & joy the sisters find in each other's company even in the bleakest of circumstances. And editing is immaculately carried out as well for every sequence plays a vital role in the story.

Coming to the performances, Mustang features a relatively inexperienced cast but the contribution from the five girls who play siblings in this feature is a highlight in itself. The scripted characters do have some flesh on them, thus providing a solid platform for the actors to built their performances upon but they further up the ante by delivering wonderfully layered & highly convincing inputs that makes all the relevant characters in the film stand out.

The story is told from the perspective of Lale, the youngest of the five siblings, and it's through her eyes that we witness the injustice she & her sisters are subjected to yet what keeps them together is their common passion for freedom & constant pursuit of ways to bypass the restrictions imposed upon them by the elders. And it is this rebellious nature that slowly accumulates as plot progresses & finally concludes with an act of self-preservation that finishes the tale on a hopeful note.

On an overall scale, Mustang is an ingeniously crafted, meticulously layered & deftly measured cinema that's engaging, entertaining & enlightening on more levels than one and for a first time filmmaker, it's an incredibly polished effort. Ergüven's direction exudes both confidence & composure and the story as a whole manages to make its voice heard loud & clear. A fearless celebration of womanhood & a heartfelt rendition of the indomitable will of human spirit, Mustang is a timely & welcome coming- of-age story and is essential viewing in every sense of the word. Don't miss it!
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This Mustang Revs Gradually from First to Fifth Gear
DareDevilKid4 March 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Reviewed by: Dare Devil Kid (DDK)

Rating: 4.9/5 stars

Smart, perceptive, observant, infuriating, and heartbreaking: these are the range of emotions one goes through while watching Director Deniz Gamze Ergüven's "Mustang": A shocking portrait about the role of women in still-existent archaic societies governed by deep-rooted sexism perfect.

Early summer in a village in Northern Turkey, five free-spirited teenaged sisters splash about on the beach with their male classmates. Though their games are merely innocent fun (and just wee-bit flirtatious), a neighbor passing by is convinced of the girls' illicit behavior and reports it to their family. The family overreacts, removing all "instruments of corruption", like cell phones and computers, essentially imprisoning the girls and subjecting them to endless lessons in housework in preparation for their marriages. As the two elder sisters are married off, the younger ones bond together to avoid the same fate. The fierce love between them empowers them to rebel and chase a future where they can determine their own lives.

It's numbing to see how the families living in these societies crush the aspirations of their young girls, robbing them of their fundamental rights, and compelling to quickly forgo any dreams or wide-eyed wonder they may have once harbored, eventually turning them into drones because of no other fault than being born at the receiving end of the gender spectrum. Eventually, these girls are left with no other option but to acquiesce or fight in the face of mortal peril. Also, since the film focuses on five sisters, it manages to explore myriad outcomes, be it happy or tragic finales, or bittersweet fates in between.

In spite of its bleak connotations, Ergüven has the foresight to narrate the story with a flexible, humorous undercurrent that cuts its starker, more brutal veracity. The Director isn't peddling blind optimism here. Instead she offers a realism stemming from the belief that freedom and entitlement to one's rights is far from an inevitable conclusion - it must be fought for, and it will be fought for. In its concentration on a bunch of girls growing up in male- dominated society, "Mustang" succeeds in being a willful act of political aggression as much as a study of female oppression.
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Playground for Sisters is Transformed to Wife Factory
Raven-196931 January 2016
Five sisters play in the sand, sunlight, sea and a grove of apple trees. Because boys are present the innocent play is easily twisted, by an envious conservative busy-body, into something sinister. The orphan girls are reported as "whores." Their caretakers, an uncle and grandmother, are much less concerned about the truth than what the neighbors might say. The girls are confined to their house and relegated to shapeless brown dresses, cooking lessons and virginity tests. Banned items include phones, internet and any item capable of outside communication. Their once beautiful and happy playground on the Black Sea is transformed into a "wife-factory" with bars on the windows. Each girl deals with the physical and emotional imprisonment in different ways, sometimes hopeful and often not. The non-professional actors do really well. The girls are especially good because they gel so well together. On the other hand, some of the scenes and actors seem forced and unrealistic. As usual, this independent and worthy film might have benefited from better support. The film as a whole pulls some punches and risks becoming the Walt Disney of Turkey for its glossy portrayals of serious stuff. Then again, that might be the only way the film could be released widely? The moral here, for the girls' caretakers, is that you are likely to get burned if you fight fire with fire. "Evil must be your only happiness," when you see evil everywhere.
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Industrialization requires the liberation of women
Dr_Coulardeau29 September 2015
Warning: Spoilers
A very important film and there is very little to say about it. Turkey, five daughters (and sisters) are being raised by their grandmother because their parents are dead. The grandmother is helped in that task by the girls' uncles. We are in a small city or big village. The girls are wild and the grandmother is probably not up to her task. So the uncles take over when some rumor starts spreading. The girls are locked up in the house, taken away from school, which shows education does not seem to be compulsory for girls, and the uncles decide to get rid of them by marrying them. They marry two. The third one commits suicide and the last two will have to elope and that is going to be difficult.

There is little mention of Islam behind because we are not dealing with Islam here but with a traditional agricultural society where the family is sacred and the girls are the best possession a family has to improve their lot in society by marrying them with an important dowry to a man who is from an important family and who has an important position himself. Marrying the girls is nothing but improving the status of the family. This has been a characteristic of all agricultural societies in the West and it caused the development of a conflict if not unrest when they started turning industrial, and Turkey is part of that West and they are going through that very phase in social development.

When I have said that, there is nothing else to add. They had the same situation in Southern Italy just twenty years ago. Portugal is not much better off on that question and twenty years ago girls had to be married fast and from the day after their marriage they were supposed to dress in black.

What I regret is that the audience is reacting to a film like that as if that was typical of Islam and any Muslim society. And that is a lie. It is typical of all societies that shift from agriculture to industry and in which the family is the core of social hierarchies and prestige. The point for a country like Turkey is that the change that took about four generations if not more in Western Europe and definitely more in the agricultural plains of the USA has to be done and finished within one generation. The shift is directly from total submission for women to eloping, fleeing and escaping.

It is thus an interesting film but nothing really to change the face of history. When Ataturk decided to westernize Turkey in the 1920s he set Turkey on that road and industrialization has only started to really penetrate this country some thirty years ago. The change that is happening at record speed right now explains the desire of the Turks to keep some balance and that's probably why they turn toward some traditional conservative mildly Muslim party who can more or less guarantee that the change will be done without a blood bath nor a complete destruction of traditions and cultural references, including of course the religious reference.

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Displays an intimacy that breathes love and affection
howard.schumann6 June 2016
"I feel the air flowing for life's in full swing, so tell me why I cannot breathe" – Kate Rusby, Fallin' Since the dawn of human history, men's ability to suppress the rights of women has been a measure of their power. Despite our social advances, even today women are often put into categories such as, as author Estela Welldon describes it, "Mother, Madonna, or Whore." Accusations of being either cold and prudish or seductive and manipulative obscure the fact that sex for women is as natural and healthy a form of self expression as it is for men. Unfolding against a backdrop of adolescent sexual repression, rebellion, and loss of innocence, Director Deniz Gamze Ergüven's magical first feature Mustang tackles the issue of gender inequality that women all over the world have to confront, the title symbolizing their strength and untamed spirit.

Co-written by the director and Alice Winocour, the film is set in a rural Turkish village near the Black Sea, and takes place in a conservative patriarchal culture that discourages the expression of femininity other than in fulfilling traditional gender roles. Though Mustang is filmed in Turkey and spoken in Turkish, because France is the director's adopted country, it was France's entry for the Oscars Best Foreign Language Film award in 2016. In the film, five orphaned teenage sisters, Lale (Güneş Nezihe Şensoy), Nur (Doğa Zeynep Doğuşlu), Ece (Elit Işcan), Selma (Tuğba Sunguroğlu), and Sonay (Ilayda Akdoğan) are being raised in the countryside by their uncle Erol (Ayberk Pekcan, "Winter Sleep") and their grandmother (Nihal G. Koldas, "Kuma"). Though sad that their favorite teacher (Bahar Karimoglu) is going to Istanbul, the girls enjoy the final day of their school year, engaging in horseplay with local boys in waist-deep water.

Their joyous exuberance is turned into something dirty, however, by a local gossip who accuses them of sexually touching themselves against the boys' necks and, of course, it is the girls who must pay the price. As an innocent game becomes the catalyst for intimidation, the girls are taken one by one by grandma to check their virginity and are subject to beatings from their overbearing uncle. Anything potentially corrupting is taken away such as their cell phones and computers along with their makeup. Expressive, often skimpy outfits are substituted with ugly, shapeless, colorless dresses that destroy their vibrancy.

The restrictions become even more blatant after they sneak away to attend a soccer match, even though the crowd is all female (men have been refused entry after a riot). Though Erol didn't see them at the game thanks to a relative who sabotages the electricity to the entire village, their act of rebellion is the last straw for the grandmother. The house becomes a prison as bars are put on the windows and a group of local women arrive to teach the girls cooking and housekeeping in preparation for their preordained role in life as wives and mothers. The situation is promptly described by the feisty Lale who asserts that their home has become a "wife factory," and that their key function will be to produce children.

Even sadder, there are darker things going on which are not shown but are implied when we see Uncle Erol going into Nur's room at night, after which the grandmother hides the sheets. Most likely aware of what's going on but powerless to prevent it, she begins to arrange marriages for each one of them. Sonay rebels and insists that she will only marry her boyfriend Ekin (Enes Surum) which is agreed to. Selma, however, is not so fortunate. After her marriage to a boring partner, she is forced to undergo a gynecological examination when there's no blood on the sheets, despite her repeated and truthful assertions that she is a virgin. While the forced marriage plan is partially successful, it leads to tragedy that we are totally unprepared for.

Anticipating that she may need to escape this prison before she is also ground down into the passive, compliant woman the family desires, Lale is secretly taught how to drive by Yasin (Burak Yigit, "Victoria"), a friendly neighborhood truck driver and her thoughts turn to other possibilities. Mustang is marked by outstanding performances by the five sisters who display an intimacy that breathes love and affection. Though the film deals with disturbing subject matter, it is not a depressing film. The remarkable performances by these outstanding young women and the connection they have with each other is exhilarating as is their willingness to assert their individuality and their humanity in the face of ignorance masked by good intentions.
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For the western gaze
arjantin7823 June 2016
I am Turkish. I know how people behave in rural parts of Turkey. This movie is so ridiculously bad I would not waste another sentence for it if it wasn't for the minimal review length requirement of IMDb. So here it is, 10 lines... Actors do not even come close to give an authentic depiction of how people living in a village in İnebolu act and behave. The story is a disaster. The general attitude of the movie is tastelessly didactic. Don't you ever think that you get a somewhat accurate representation of anything regarding Turkish society from this excuse of a movie. The director/writer does obviously not know how things work in rural parts of Turkey. One of the writers is not even Turkish. So, go figure... The fuss around this movie (oscar nomination etc.) is a textbook case of westerners appreciating narratives about the rest of the world which justify their ideological preconceptions.
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very big disappointment
evrimub10 September 2016
I couldn't understand how this movie got these high scores. It is unfair to all good movies have been produced in the world. The story is universal (it is given)- especially for the Muslim countries- But if we are talking about movies here, if we make critics according the movie lines, sorry but there is no good acting, no good picture, no good storytelling, no honesty... As a Turkish woman I can say that the story is real but the drama in the movie is not acted good so it lost everything. If a girl live in a rural part of Turkey she knows how to act, how to react, how to dress, how to talk. And the real bad part of the story starts there. Although they act according the traditions they may force to marry or raped or tortured. They are not free from the beginning, they are not like big city girls who live in İstanbul. On the other hand the girls in the movie act like city girls and suddenly came to live in a rural part of Turkey in a family which they knew nothing about their philosophy of life, the traditions. They act like New Yorkers. Probably it is because, one of the writers (Alice Winocour) is not Turkish and Deniz Gamze Ergüven (director and writer) I guess didn't spend much time in Turkey especially in the rural areas, didn't listen real stories. While I was watching the movie I felt like the writers asked themselves "What is one of the biggest major problems Turkish woman deal with? Not being free (?!), have to obey elders, behave according the traditions, OK lets match them and write a story on a computer. As I mentioned at the beginning the story line is real but those girls in the movie are not real, they don't fit the girls who live in a rural part of Turkey. Sorry but the movie couldn't give the real drama it is like a newly graduated person's movie. We are not discussing if the story in the movie real or not here, we are discussing the storytelling in a movie. This makes the movie good or bad. There are lots of second world war movies but we remember the movies like Pianist, Schindler's list... Real stories with good storytelling, good picture, good drama...
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Could have been a lot better
tolga_arslan198327 September 2016
I must say Deniz Gamze Eruven's movie had an impact on me. But I suspect this might be due to the subject matter rather than script or directing. I'm Turkish, we do have child marriage problem thus I was interested in seeing this movie. But the movie has so many problems with its script, directing and acting (although acting problems could be due to bad script and directing) I must say this movie could have been a lot better.

First I must commend Erguven on one important positive aspect of the movie which is being balanced. It is a movie about a depressing subject but the director did a good job on not creating an all dark movie.

However, as being balanced makes the movie more realistic the artificial dialogue makes it quite unrealistic. The movie is in Turkish however to me it seems like the script was written in a foreign language first (probably French) than was translated into Turkish. Neither the girls nor the grandmother have the slightest of rural accent. There were moments where I felt these girls are from an upscale city family and their biggest problem is getting the latest iPhone, not being locked up in a house or being forcefully married to a stranger in early ages. Secondly with the exception of little Elif the movie lacks character development, it's a bit too short for depicting five sisters with serious problems.
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nice photography however a big disappointment in general
nazliozturk16 January 2016
I was very excited when I heard that a Turkish woman directed Mustang and the movie is nominated for Oscars in the category of a foreign language movie. I decided that it is worth a watch. However I was very disappointed. First of all, the five sisters looked like spoiled girls who we see in some Istanbul private schools rather than girls who are living in Kastamonu and going to a rural public school. The way people talk has nothing to do with the way people talk in Turkey. The way people treat each other also has no similarities to the way Turkish people treat each other. Family is very sacred in our country and people are very loving and caring towards family members. It felt like I was watching a movie with people from a different country who happened to be speaking Turkish! It is very obvious that the director does not know much about the way of living in Turkey. The tone was full of hatred all the time. The acting was very bad in general. It is true that in some parts of Turkey women are oppressed and are victims of traditions called 'tore'. It is also true that child brides still exist. But this movie was very far from depicting those circumstances and situations as they happen in real life. Very disappointed, but still gave a 5 for the effort since she is a woman and since she is from my country.
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Wild horses
Karl Self14 February 2016
Warning: Spoilers
The movie is beautifully photographed and underlaid with an ambient soundtrack. Five sisters from, say, eleven to maybe nineteen, grow up with their grandmother and uncle in the Turkish countryside. As the sisters enter and go through puberty, their minders decide to curb their vivaciousness and get them married off as soon as possible. Only later do we find out that the uncle is raping at least some of the girls at night, and that the grandmother might see their marriages as the only way to protect them -- but actually, that's my hypothesis. The movie works from an outside view, the actual events are never fully explained and often remain vague. Or else I'm too daft to get it.

What I liked about this movie was the development. Erol, the uncle, is at first not a sinister figure, he likes to celebrate and seems to care for the girls. He's not even especially conservative as he drinks alcohol; and neither are the grandmother nor the aunts black-and-white stereotypes or uncaring, humourless bigots.

The way the girls were depicted reminded me not so much of The Virgin Suicides (although that's an apt comparison) but of David Hamilton. We see beautiful, svelte girls lingering about a lot. I kind of started to shift uneasily in my seat. They must have been living with their relatives for some time, but it's like they've arrived from Mars, they seem to be blissfully unaware of what's going on around them. They often don't seem to be behaving like I think real girls in this situation would.

One big problem with the plot is that it is quite linear. The girls are to be married off one after the other, and that's what happens over the course of the film.

The movie is supposed to be made by a Turkish woman from her personal experience, but it often seemed too fantastic to me. Like someone had made this film after reading a few books on the subject.

Overall not a bad movie, but not one I felt glad about having seen, either.
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Contrived and bland
Rendanlovell3 June 2016
'Mustang' is the (2016) Oscar Nominated foreign film out of Turkey. It's received quite a bit of recognition, being called one of the most timely films to have released in the past couple of years. While, I can't deny that statement, I also can't quite get on board with it. The film follows five young women who are all being raised by their Grandmother. One day they are playing harmlessly in the ocean with a couple of guys and someone sees them. She doesn't see what they are doing as harmless and goes to the Grandmother about it. After this their life makes a complete 180 and their old fashioned Uncle takes over caring for them. He turns the house into a prison of sorts and beings marrying them off one by one. If you can't already tell, the message that the film is pushing is the oppression of women in Turkey. It shows that, in many cases, care takers can be very cruel with little repercussions. It was frustrating to watch to say the least.

This is brought to life with grace by first time director Deniz Gamze Ergüven. It's quite miraculous how much control she seems to have over the entire production. Even more impressive is her direction over the main five girls. All of which have never been in a film like this before.

Which is all the more impressive considering how excellent their performances end up being. Each one really brings their character to life with superb energy. If you didn't know any better it would be easy to say that these girls seem to legitimately be sisters. The scenes where they all share the screen captures their us against them mentality extremely well.

While I knew how much praise this film was receiving I still came out fairly surprised at how technically impressive it was. Again, considering how many first timers where on board this film is something of a miracle. Everything from the production design to the cinematography is very well done.

However, the films script is not nearly as strong as the rest of the movie. It unfortunately puts its characters second to its message. All but one or two characters are blank slates that could have been exchanged at any time and I probably would not have noticed. Even the characters that get some development aren't interesting enough to drive the films slower moments.

Of which, there are many. The majority of acts one and two feel like excessive set up for the conclusion. Through the first hour of the film I felt like nothing really mattered to anything. It's full of plot conveniences that make everything fall flat. Like when the girls run away to attend a soccer game and some how manage to get on TV at the exact moment that their grandmother was watching. And even more convenient, their Uncle somehow didn't see them.

It's hard to get invested into a story that doesn't feel like it matters. And, to make things worse, it takes its strong message and decides to shove it in our faces. A once (mostly) subtle message is taken to the extreme when sexual assault comes into play. After that point there was nothing about the story that was interesting or new. It felt like something that was on a studio check list. Something that had to be in the movie or it wasn't going to be made. And it made the film turn from a "timely" film into a standard one.

It wastes it's great cast and crew with a story that doesn't do anything good. Its characters are relatively flat, the story isn't anything new, and its message is taken to an unnecessary, irrational extreme for little to no reason. As hard as it tries too, nothing in my life is going to change because of this film. In fact, it's so blah, that I will most likely forget about within a few days.
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Not for a faint-hearted yet a journey worth taking.
charnwood-6052525 July 2016
It is top class start for a first-time Director. It is a heart-warming and yet challenging depiction of 5 orphaned teenage sisters and the paternal culture that find themselves in a small community well away from the big cities. It starts with a scene of teenagers having fun and descends quickly into a nightmare. Yet it has many moments of humour and the photography is a highlight. Certainly the strong bond of love between them is depicted beautifully. The standout performance is the first-time actress who plays Lale, the youngest of the 5. She sees all, with maturity beyond her years. Her personalities of her siblings are varied with all trying to cope in their own ways. It appears that it is not all that common in modern day Turkey (as suggested by other reviews) yet I consider it a journey worth taking.
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off topic
sharkeez19 June 2017
This film is a great example of how a movie can be ''off topic''

The director thinks that Turkey is a catholic based country. She doesn't know Turkey neither it's people nor culture. There is a totally misunderstanding or intentional attempt of diversion.

It's filmed in Black Sea region of Turkey and the scenario is also having a body in this region. But the problem is; this region is not that conservative. Maybe it would be filmed in the southeast region then my critics would be little bit moderate. But never could be a indulgent level, just little moderate.

Poff, no matter how she is rebellious, a Turkish girl never take a stranger from the street to the car and having sex with him, while his uncles is taking money from the bank. No one, believe me! Probably in the world as well.

The girls are grown up in that region but somehow they are really effected by western culture. And having troubles with facing this west-east conflict. It's really funny.

All the keywords like; incest, social pressure, child marriage, rape are used by the director. She set up her structure on these keywords. But the cocktail which is made by those key words is really insincere and nauseous.

Of course the film has a message! Which is basically the easiest and effortless way, may be the one of the best clichés in the modern Turkish academia and literature. And this is ''Education is indispensable''

Just name it, say it and everything is gonna be alright!

Oh my god. God protect this movie by the audience
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