I keep thinking about “Mustang,” which opens this week in limited release. It has been described as a Turkish-Syrian “Virgin Suicides” but that comparison would be much more apt if Sofia Coppola had a penchant for female liberation rather than pink Converse. About a group of orphaned sisters (age 12-16) who are imprisoned in their grandmother’s home after getting caught playing with local boys, this is a horror movie about patriarchy on one level and the fiercest of fairy tales on another. Here is the text of a talk I delivered about it last weekend to the Westchester Cinema Club.
Really it’s impossible to discuss “Mustang” without discussing its director. Deniz Gamze Ergüven is a 37-year old-woman raised in Turkey and France. She identifies as a French film director though, and, indeed, though this is set in Turkey with a Turkish cast and in Turkish language, it is technically a French production. The French woman Alice Winocour is her co-screen-writer, and Ergüven counts among her mentors the legendary French director Olivier Assayas, who’s done such extraordinary films as “Summer Hours” and “Clouds of Sils Maria,” which is one of my favorite films of 2015.
That said, this film is very much inspired by the restrictiveness of Turkish life for women. When Deniz was 10, she had the same experience as the girls—she was caught playing on the shoulders of boys and was severely punished for it. As she’s said in interviews, Turkey was one of the countries to give women the vote; now they can barely get abortions and nearly everything coded as feminine is reduced to a shameful reference to sex. Continue Reading →