Five sisters find themselves trapped inside their home and forced into arranged marriages when they are caught performing ‘indecent’ acts. The indecent act in question involved a game where the girls sat on the shoulders of boys and tried to push each other off, this innocent game leads of a series of serious and dramatic events where the sisters begin to be split apart, parting ways as they are forced into marrige.
Deniz Gamze Ergüven's film has found itself, often favourably, being compared to Sofia Coppola's The Virgin Suicides as both films centre around the relationship shared between five sisters, each of whom are discovering their own sexuality. Mustang is film about five sisters discovering their sexuality in a society that demeans and humiliates them for doing something that is a basic part of growing up and completely natural. The embarrassment that these girls are forced to endure, virginity check-ups for instance, is appalling as the film criticises the move towards a conservative society in some aspects of Turkish life. In a recent interview, the director has claimed that Turkey has gone backwards in regards to the country's views on women and the film criticises this step backwards.
Director Deniz Gamze Ergüven also claimed that conservatives in Turkey sexualise everything that girls do, and that’s how the film starts with a simple game turning into one massive scandal where the girls were accused of 'rubbing their private parts' against the necks of boys, it's viewed as an immoral, scandalous act. This simple, playful game with boys leaves the five sisters imprisoned in their own home, and as a result they would often escape confines of the house to meet boys and attend a women only football match (the match was between Fenerbahçe, one on Turkey’s biggest teams, and Manisaspor). Interestingly, Turkish football is so polluted by violence and hooliganism that the Turkish FA did actually try the peculiar policy of 'punishing' teams so that only women can attend football matches (originally it was an entire stadium ban, but the Turkish FA softened their stance by letting women and children watch the game). It was policy that proved to be remarkably successful.
The desire to escape the confines of the house serves as the metaphor of the girls' desire to escape their society's traditional beliefs. They would often remove their conservative, 'shit-coloured' clothes and wear more comfortable, more ‘revealing’ clothes in a bid to have a release from their traditional and moral society’s stranglehold upon them. The young girls desire to fit into a more Western society way of life means that tension is rising between them and their more conservative elders, this, in a sense, mirrors the rising tensions between the EU and Turkey.
Despite the dark subject matter the story is told with a touch of lightness, it's a film that champions the girls as heroines and the relationship shared between all five sisters is terrific. Their strong, engaging and believable relationship is the brightest spark of the film because of film’s touching script, which beautifully writes their relationships with one another, and the superb, natural performances from the five young stars. It's a superb film, with plenty to say about a serious subject matter but it's a story told with an infectious, lively light heartedness.