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When their grandmother hears that they have been fooling around with boys, her five teenage granddaughters are forthwith forbidden to go to school, have to remain indoors and are married off as soon as possible. The youngest, Lale, begins to plan ...


Vacation. Five girls, the youngest around 10 and the oldest perhaps 17, romp around on the beach on their way home in a tiny Turkish village on the Black Sea Coast where they live with their uncle and grandmother. Individual character traits gradually become clearer, but at first the five appear like an amorphous, wild, giggling mass. Irrepressible energy, hair blowing, and signs of awakening sexuality which must be contained, no matter the cost. When the grandmother finds out that the girls were seen with some boys on the beach, the house becomes a prison and the regime is becomes convent-like. Long brown garments replace their school uniforms, the girls are taken out of school, and their new education is set on one goal: becoming a “good wife.”
Even though the film’s events are based on several real events, the draconian (re-)education and the images flooded with light have a surreal touch. Every small offense means an additional barricade around a house with many windows, reminiscent of the play lonesco. Director Deniz Gamze Ergüven mentions different inspirations like WILD AT HEART, SALO: 120 DAYS OF SODOM, FISH TANK, ESCAPE FROM ALCATRAZ, Italian neo-realist films, and fairy tales. She sees the girls, the ultimate resistance women, as a five-head hydra – even though the magical creature loses limbs while fighting it still lives on.
When the girls do run way despite the high security, the film enters Act II, the drama’s darker segment. The girls will be decimated. The girls are married off one after the other to the highest bidder. While Sonaya is happy to marry the boy she has been flirting with, Selma is a sad, resigned bride who only wants one thing: to finally be left alone. Lale, the youngest and the one at the center of MUSTANG, slowly enters the adult’s field of vision. Time is running out. The last sister is paired off, the groomsman is standing outside the door. While the wedding party make noise outside, the last remaining sisters try to find a way to escape the trap. That’s how MUSTANG becomes a real prison break thriller in its last act.
Teen kitsch, social drama, and a break out film with surreal flashes: it’s not entirely clear whether MUSTANG’s style is ludicrously multifaceted or just really uneven, but maybe that’s not even important. Like the wild horse it’s named after and the mostly amateur cast, the feature length debut of Deniz Gamze Ergüven has a lot of energy. Maybe it’s the sparks of paradoxes that serve as the foundation of the film. Ergüven’s analysis of women’s state in rural Turkey is deeply hopeless on one hand: a conciliation, compromise, convergence, or softening of the patriarchal position is utterly unthinkable. The other side which make up the mothers, aunts, and grandmothers, will not budge. The only way out is: escape. On other hand, the criticism is so vehement, the will to take off is so big, that the patriarchy won’t be able to stand up to the furious storm. Maybe it will be left behind at some point.


Translation: Elinor Lewy


Deutschland/Frankreich/Türkei 2015, 97 min
Language: Turkish
Genre: Drama
Director: Deniz Gamze Ergüven
Author: Alice Winocour, Deniz Gamze Ergüven
DOP: David Chizallet, Ersin Gok
Montage: Mathilde Van de Moortel
Music: Warren Ellis
Distributor: Weltkino Filmverleih
Cast: Güneş Nezihe Şensoy, Doğa Zeynep Doğuşlu, Elit İşcan, Tuğba Sunguroğlu, İlayda Akdoğan
FSK: 12
Release: 25.02.2016




  • OV Original version
  • OmU Original with German subtitles
  • OmeU Original with English subtitles
English/with English subtitles
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