Thanks to its recent Oscar nomination in the Best Foreign Language Film category (it’s Turkish but it was submitted by France to the Academy), Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s Mustang gets a release on North American screens today. Set in a Northern Turkey village, it’s the tale of five young sisters who try to cope with a minor mistake turning to town scandal which leads to dreadful consequences. As they become captive, while marriages start being arranged, they set ways and games to pass time and keep hope with a sense for freedom.
Sympathetic in its storytelling Mustang is however graceless at times due to the unsteadiness of its handheld camera and jagged framing, a way to shoot that invades too many pictures these days and leaves sequences with an inappropriate feel of improvisation. Fortunately it’s not the case through the whole picture as some parts are of course well mannered and show a beautiful sensibility. Again, overall it also suffers from an ensemble cast of amateurs whose acting is (if good at times) pretty uneven as it is undoubtedly filled by first-timers. Another annoyance is the expeditious radical change in the household as the family seems to turn suddenly very conservative with no real turning point to justify the escalation. It falls short to clearly convince in handling its subject, thus the hype around Mustang seems to be made of high sympathy by critics mainly for what it depicts, but not because the director really mastered the elements as we should expect. Nonetheless, despite its flaws, it is still not devoid of appealing moments as the poetic quest for freedom (the feel good element) is pretty effective and we still can relate to the protagonists.
Overall, Mustang deserves an honorable mention, while an Oscar nomination seems a bit out of proportion, when compared to some great works from other countries who didn’t make the final cut of five nominees. The nomination seems more the result of an Oscar-bankable film with a narrative quite of its time that echoes the world order, like the voters of this category seem occasionally to vouch for.
(Note: You can access other Cinetalk articles about 2016 Oscars (Feb. 28) by Clicking among the tags (below this article) on Academy Awards 2016 or Oscars 2016. More to come…)