Bottom Line: Must See!
Dir. Deniz Gamze Ergüven
Cinematography: David Chizallet
Music: Warren Ellis
Release: 2015 (Cannes)
There can never be enough films telling stories as enchanting as this one, of womanhood (especially those by a female director) and reflecting on a coming-of-age perspective often treated as second-place in many countries and societies.
There are visual nudges to what happens behind closed doors (abuse) as well as painful moments. When their grandmother starts punishing the girls physically one by one after being seen swimming and playing with teenage boys, the overreaction seems obvious enough to know that there’s more to her story. Indeed, by the end of the film, you can’t really blame her. The physical effect of watching her granddaughters go through this is evident in her exhaustion and anxiety. Although her frailty isn’t blamed, her conformity isn’t praised either. In terms of narrative style, the muted, simple and read-between-the-lines, foreign film approach has a long-standing place in my heart. In a movie like this, any extra dialogue isn’t necessary. You have everything you need to feel in the gazes of the characters, in their expressions and bodies. A lot of this is owed to the wonderful acting from the girls and the direction. Their excitement, fragility, maturity and immaturity speaks volumes. It also goes hand in hand with the stripped down filming style, which is largely hand-held and digital. By stripped down I mean that there is an openness, a simplicity kind of like that of the Dardenne brothers (as eloquently put by James Franco in his discussion – below). The filming style also reminded me of Eric Guirado’s The Grocer’s Son, running along the similar line of simple but effective and poetic pauses in the cinematography and editing. There were times where the nature of shooting on digital was fairly obvious, such as the noise in one bedroom night scene and the blur of the camera tracking. I personally don’t see this as a flaw at all. It’s an understandable part of the context the film was made in and contributes to the style rather than distracting from it.
The story of these sisters is no doubt a story of many others, but it’s also obviously tapping into the very current discussion of feminism and the misunderstanding that comes with it – redefining what it means to be a woman. For anyone struggling with that definition themselves Mustang is a good place to start.
Read/Watch some more:
http://www.indiewire.com/2015/11/james-francos-movie-column-why-mustang-is-the-best-film-of-the-year-52212/ – James Franco (non) review
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5edc5ZRVcJU – Interview with director