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Film / Mustang

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"The house became a wife factory that we never came out of."

Mustang is a 2015 internationally co-produced drama film directed by the Turkish female film director Deniz Gamze Ergüven, featuring mostly unknown actresses playing the main characters.

The critically acclaimed film is centered on five strong-willed, free-spirited Turkish sisters who are caught playing a game of chicken at the beach with several boys. After a neighbor tattles to their conservative grandmother about this abhorrent behavior, the sisters are put on house arrest until they can learn to be proper wives and eventually get married off, to the chagrin of the girls. Praised for its feminist criticism of how women in Turkey are told to act, the film was well-received and enjoyed numerous awards and nominations.

This film provides examples of:

  • A-Cup Angst: Lale stuffs her bra twice, trying to match up to her more physically mature sisters.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Lale is a typical youngest sibling, often harmlessly obnoxious to her older sisters. Though her headstrong nature is what gets her and Nur out of the village.
  • Arranged Marriage: An important part of the movie is about the marriages arranged by the grandmother and uncle of four of the five girls. Eventually, only the arranged marriage of Selma with Osman actually takes place. Sonay manages to make a love marriage. Ece commits suicide before the conclusion of the negotiations. Nur is a Runaway Bride.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Ece is dead and it's unlikely that Nur and Lale will be able to see their remaining married sisters anytime soon, but for now they're safe with their teacher Dilek.
  • Bloodstained Defloration: On Selma and Osman's wedding night, her in-laws check the bedsheets to prove that Selma was a virgin before the wedding. Because there isn't any blood on the sheets, they take her to a hospital for a test.
  • Bratty Teenage Daughter: The sisters all come off as this in one way or another, but it tends to be justified, given their situation.
  • The Cavalry: Yasin rescues the stranded Lale and Nur and drives them to a bus station, where they can reach Istanbul.
  • Cool Aunt: Downplayed, but present enough to be meaningful in an environment as oppressive as this. While the other female relatives are fretting at the sight of the girls on TV, attending a soccer match, Aunt Emine singlehandedly makes the house, and eventually the whole neighborhood, lose power so that the male relatives won't know.
  • Creepy Uncle: Uncle Erol raped Ece, and starts raping Nur seemingly immediately after Ece's funeral.
  • Determinator: Lale is determined to escape the house and to go to Istanbul. She makes plans for it, which involve Sleeping Dummy and driving lessons.
  • Driven to Suicide: Ece commits suicide to escape from an Arranged Marriage.
  • Follow That Car: When the five girls escape the house to attend a football match, they arrive too late and the coach has just left. They stop a truck and ask the driver to follow it. Eventually, they catch up with the coach.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Erol and the Grandmother turn the house into a prison so that the girls have no chance of sneaking out. It ends up biting them both on the ass at the end, as they can't get inside when Lale and Nur lock the doors thanks to the windows being barred.
  • Huddle Shot: The Circle of Friendship formed by the sisters at the wedding, the last time they're all together.
  • Long Hair Is Feminine: All the sisters are showing with their hair hanging loose and long to emphasize their unconstrained, youthful femininity as opposed to the more conservative, older women who surround them, who either have shorter hair, tie it back, or cover it with headscarves.
  • Moral Guardians: The five girls play in the sea with boys and a woman denounces this obscene behaviour to their grandmother. This woman seems to consider herself the moral guardian of the village.
  • Nature Adores a Virgin: Virginity is important for the girls' family. After they played in the sea with boys, the three older girls must have a virginity test. During Selma and Osman's wedding night, as there is no blood on the bedsheets, Osman and her family brings Selma to the hospital in the middle of the night for another virginity test.
  • Nice Guy: Yasin, the truck driver who helps the girls multiple times.
  • No Name Given: The girls' grandmother is only known as "The Grandmother."
  • Not So Great Escape: Lale hides behind a bed when she was searching a safe and her grandmother came in.
  • Oh, Crap!: The girls' female relatives when they see the sisters on TV, attending a football match when they were supposed to be under house arrest.
  • Orphan's Ordeal: The movie is about the story of five orphan girls, raised by their grandmother ten years after both their parents died. It involves virginity tests, confinement in the family house, Arranged Marriage, suicide, rape by Creepy Uncle, and finally escape to Istanbul.
  • Plucky Girl: Lale. She never gives up sneaking out of the house and trying to find a way to leave even as their situation gets more and more dire.
  • Raised by Grandparents: The five girls were raised by their grandmother.
  • Rape as Drama: Lale discovers that Erol has been raping Ece, which, along with her upcoming arranged marriage, has been making her act "dangerous," including having casual sex with a man in the car while her uncle is away for only a few minutes. It leads up to her being Driven to Suicide.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Seemingly played straight, but ultimately subverted with the Grandmother. When Erol comes storming in, having heard of the sisters playing a game of chicken with some boys, he lashes out at the Grandmother, saying that she's let them run free for a decade; the Grandmother, who had punished the girls for their behavior before, downplays their action and tries to assure him that it was just a rumor. She stops being sympathetic, though, when it's revealed that she knows about Erol raping the sisters and does absolutely nothing about it.
  • Runaway Bride: Nur escapes her Arranged Marriage and flees to Istanbul with Lale.
  • Shaking Her Hair Loose: Played with. Most of the other female characters are shown with their hair other short, tied back, or under a headscarf. The sisters are all shown with their hair hanging loose, hanging down their backs or on the floor, and often blowing in the wind to emphasize their youth and spiritual freedom from patriarchal standards.
  • The Shut-In: The girls are not allowed to leave the house, not even to go to school, until they are married. Their uncle Erol even puts bars in front of all doors and windows. It doesn't stop them from sneaking out, though.
  • Single Sex Offspring: The younger generation of the family is made up of the five sisters.
  • Sleeping Dummy: Nur and Lale make one with their hair. It's not used, though it is uncovered at the end as more of a poignant Brick Joke.