Friday, March 25, 2016

Mustang (2015)

Director: Deniz Gamze Erguven
Writers:  Deniz Gamze Erguven, Alice Winocour
Cast:       Gunes Sensoy, Doga Zeynep Doguslu, Tugba Sunguroglu
Language: Turkish

When five orphan girls, raised by their uncle and grandmother, are seen innocently playing with boys on a beach, their scandalized conservative guardians confine them while forced marriages are arranged.

It is a female-directed film and, I don't know if it is because of getting used to female-centric films from male directors, I found the initial parts of this film to be very unsubtle. I think it would have been better if they showed what prompted their confinement to have happened due to natural course of events of them having grown up. One could see it as lazy film-making with director using it as easy way to get to things that she wants to sink into. But I guess we have to give her some benefit of doubt as the mannerisms of the girls remains consistent throughout the film and them being orphans, raised by their grandmother, could also be one reason for them being given a longer leash in a conservative society. 

The film is set in a remote village around 1000 kms away from Istanbul, which is considered as a place of freedom by the girls. It is quite ironic, since Turkey under Erdogan has taken a turn for the worse by embracing conservatism like India has also done with the coming to the power of a religious fundamentalist, Narendra Modi. While Erdogan is dismantling the secular nature of Turkey, imposed by Ataturk, Modi is dismantling our secular traditions which is considered to be quintessentially Nehruvian. Turkish films are a gateway to see and be amazed by the Turkish society which stands in stark contrast with other Muslim majority nations. Nuri Bilge Ceylan is a favorite of mine and his films have more in common with films from Western Europe, with themes of modern alienation and existentialism, rather than  Persian films which tend to be more about societies at large. 

Overall, Mustang is a very good watch and it is the sort of film that would be received very well in places like Kerala, which was indeed the case when it came here for IFFK. It got nominated in the Best Foreign Language Film category at the Oscars, where it was sent as a nomination from France. Performances are raw and very good from all concerned. Ending happens in a feel-good manner but works really well because we really want it to happen that way.

PS: I didn't know that, in Turkish marriages, virginity test for the bride happens after the first night, when the groom's relatives barge in to check out the bed-sheet.

Rating: 3.5/5