So I’ve been thinking . . . about mustang. No, not the car or the horse, but the movie Mustang. I saw it last week and cannot get it out of my mind.
Mustang has been nominated for numerous awards, has won a few awards, and is an Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Language Film. It’s a Turkish movie written and directed by a Turkish woman, Deniz Gamze Ergüven, submitted by France. (She lives in France, and it’s a French-German-Turkish produced film. Turkey opted not to submit it so France did.)
Mustang tells the story of five sisters (probably between the ages of 12 and 18) who live in a conservative town along the Black Sea in Turkey. On the last day of school, they walk home and play along the beach with several local boys, friends of theirs. Without giving too much away, the girls are accused of lewd behavior and are locked up in the house. The aftermath and the way they rebel unfold as the movie progresses.
The topic is familiar—female adolescence and all that comes with it—but with a cultural spin. (The movie has been compared to The Virgin Suicides, which I read and saw, and while they have the same basis, they’re different.) In Mustang, we experience not only heart-breaking tragedy but also absolute joy and laughter. We discover the identities of each sister as they assert their desires and approach the situation in different ways. They are happy, curious, angry, outspoken, resigned, silly, clever, obedient, and free-spirited. We see their playfulness and their creativity, even with the increasing limits placed on them.
As for the girls themselves, four of the five of them never acted before. They seem so genuinely like sisters, so intimate and so natural, you feel as if you’re a voyeur watching them live their lives. The story is told from the point of view of the youngest sister, and she is phenomenal. I wouldn’t disagree if she were nominated for a best acting award.
As a Turkish-American, I wasn’t raised with this level of tradition and conservatism. And I’m aware there is a range, just like anywhere else. So I usually have this gut-clench when it comes to Turkish movies or news about Turkey. My thoughts go to, “Oh god, what have we Turks done now? Once again, we’re going to look bad. Oh, they always show one side and make it an extreme. Is this going to be about ‘conservative’ Muslims who treat women badly because that’s the only way they are portrayed?”
I can say, thankfully, none of those thoughts were realized with this film. Ergüven did a great job of presenting the culture and tradition of one part of a society. I thought it was done respectfully, without going to extremes or caricature-izing a country and its people. She carefully does not bring religion into this, which I think was a wise choice. (Great interview with her here.)
While Mustang shows life in another culture, ultimately, Ergüven created a movie that evokes universal emotions. What she does so brilliantly is present this theme of teen-angst we can all relate to, whether we are Turkish or not. And she does this in a sweet, natural but really profound way. It really gets you thinking and talking. After the movie, my friend and I couldn’t stop talking about it, our own feelings about growing up, society, the power of women, and cultural issues. And, clearly, I’m still talking about it.
And another thing (or two or five) . . .
- Great time-lapse video of one week in the Black Sea area of Turkey.
- This Istanbul documentary on cats looks cute.
- Did you know that February is National Letter Writing Month? Great reason to write a letters instead of email, tweets, and texts.
- I would so get this alarm clock, even though I don’t really use one.
- This is great, but what took them so long?
I’ve been reading . . . several books right now. I’m reading Istanbul: Memories and the City by Orhan Pamuk. After seeing Mustang, I’m a little homesick for Turkey, and for some unknown reason, winter feels like the best time to read Orhan Pamuk books. I’m also reading Below Stairs by Margaret Powell. It’s an ok, easy read. Not great but a light relief to the denser books I am reading. And, finally, still All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.
I’ve been watching . . . Mustang. I absolutely loved this movie. (Can you tell?) In fact, I think it’s one of the best movies I’ve ever seen (and I’m not the only one).
I’ve been listening to . . . James Morrison still. He just doesn’t disappoint with this new album, even if I think “Lonely People” is a little too dancey. It’s a consistently great album. “Too Late for Lullabies” tugs at my heart. Love the emotion—it’s classic James Morrison to me. “Easy Love” has that soul, kind-of-R&B vibe. Of course, listening to his new album has got me listening to all his albums again. Love his raspy, emotion-filled, soulful voice!
Have a wonderful weekend!
(Mustang movie poster image found here.)