Living on the western side of the world, you tend to forget about traditions that still occur in more remote parts of the East. Arranged marriage might be one of the more taboo of those Eastern traditions, and it is still practiced today.
Mustang, a film directed by Deniz Gamze Ergüven and released in 2013, illustrates this taboo to an audience that might not fully understand it. The one thing that Ergüven knew an audience could understand, however, is rebelling against parental figures.
Joe Zimmerman, professor of communications at CF and head of the International Film Series, reflects on the themes present in Mustang.
“It’s about childhood [moving] into adolescence and it’s about repression [and the] prison that some women [find themselves in] in a lot of parts of the world,” Zimmerman said.
Ira Holmes, a retired humanities professor, started the film series in 1962. He began showing films that could not be easily seen in the early 1960s, and the tradition continues to this day.
Mustang is about five young rebellious sisters living in Turkey who find out they were all adopted. They are taught how to be wives for a suitor by their foster parents: forced to wear conservative clothes, learn how to cook, how to clean and how to serve food for their husbands.
The story is told through the eyes of Lale, the youngest sister—an avid soccer fan. Lale’s determination to attend a soccer game with her uncle, who told her no, jumpstarts the film’s narrative when Lale misses the bus and is forced to hitch a ride to the soccer match.
Ergüven’s film weaves through the sisters’ stories as their grandmother attempts to marry all of them off: Sonay, the eldest, to her boyfriend; Selma, the second eldest, to a stranger; Ece, the third eldest, is up to the plate in the Marriage World Series but starts acting dangerously so as to not seem desirable to any suitors.
Drama and tragedy ensues when a dark secret is revealed, hidden deep within the very walls of the family’s home—and it only gets worse for the sisters from there.
Mustang showcases the problems associated with arranged marriage, which are still prevalent in areas of the world today. The message is concise and shows the many sides of a patriarchal family.
This is Ergüven’s first attempt at a major film and it is made at an almost-blockbuster level of storytelling. With only a few hiccups in the area of tone. For instance, the film will cut from a humorous scene right into a very dramatic scene. This is a good way to add shock value to your film but it is overdone a bit in this movie.
Overall, this film really brings to light the problems some women face in the rural parts of the Eastern world, while still providing a pleasant viewing experience for the audience to enjoy. If you want a story from the Eastern part of Europe that Westerners can still relate to, then this movie comes highly recommended.
You can watch films featured in the International Film Series every other Tuesday at 2 p.m. at the Appleton Museum and at 7 p.m. in Building 8, Room 110.
Story by: Colten Gardner