I saw Mustang – nominee for Best Foreign Language Film this year – two days ago and absolutely cannot stop thinking about it.
One of the things, among many, that I continue to wonder is how much men actually think about the interior and exterior conditions of women’s lives. And, in an analogous thread, how much do women possessing various forms of privilege think about the lives of other women who have much less autonomy. I don’t think people who see this film will be able to avoid those thoughts about the daily lives of others, which may ignite some much-needed empathy in unlikely places.
Set in a conservative village in Turkey, Mustang follows five, orphaned sisters through a critical period over one summer and fall.
An incident occurs at the beginning of the film that seems at first like innocent – if sensual – horseplay after school. But, the consequences of that escapade frame the remainder of the film in ways that are personally moving and also provide an important window for viewers to see and understand the constraints that mark the lives of women across many different cultures.
The girls, who are being raised by their grandmother and their uncle, are remarkable characters whose behavior at the beginning of the film will enchant you and then cause a mighty re-evaluation after learning more about the circumstances of their lives.
The evolution of the narrative is both subtle and deep, a delicate dance that transfixes just like the performances of the girls and the adults trying to contain them. It is impossible for me to overstate how effortlessly the film unfolds in stark contrast to the profundity of its message.
Mustang takes our intellectual understanding of what it’s like for women to exist in oppressive societies where their behavior is circumscribed by men and by women who are agents of the patriarchy and gives us a heartfelt sense of knowing that transcends factual accounts.
The story is beautifully told, the message is essential, and I suspect that – like me – you will carry this film with you long after the final credits have rolled.