MustangDeniz Gamze Erguven( 2015; Tur, Fr) Gunes Sensoy, Doga Doguslu; Tugba Sunguroglu, Elit Iscan, Ilayda Akdogan
Viewed Tyneside Cinema 17 May 2016; ticket £9.75
Princesses in a tower
More extravagantly, but in some ways similar to Lucretius Martel’s La Santa Nina, Deniz Erguvan’s Mustang takes place in the sensual milieu of adolescent sisters.The screen is filled with the aqueous flowing hair and skin that defines the presence of the five girls and characterises the un-self conscious natures of their emotional closeness.Erguvan’s hand held camera moving over faces, limbs locks and bodies captures the physicality of relationship defined by intimacy not by sexuality.As the sisters flow into and over one another their individualities merge and they transform as if into one organic primordial form, temporarily occupying an undifferentiated psychic state of being. A primal state of physico-consciousness that absorbs the world into itself.
Of course this is hallucination, a realm of enchantment that cannot last. And Erguvan’s Mustang is a fairy tale.The tellers of such tales know that states of Arcadian joy in life cannot endure; a fall from grace must come.Awakenings incursions invasions and other forces in play in the social and psychic domains will rip apart the frail threads of preconscious existence.
And so it is in Mustang.The sisters primordial unity is broken up as one by one the sisters are detached from the multiplicity of their organic body, and caste into a heightened world of sexual imperatives, a world desaturated of intimacy where the physical relationship given prime consideration is the intactness of the hymeneal membrane.
Mustang works because it takes on the form of a fairy tale.Erguven’s film is grounded in myth not in her depicted setting of La Turquie profonde.The setting is fabulous because although some of the visual gestures and accoutrements possess Turkish qualities: bread making, pastry making coffee making, sewing and lots of shrouded bescarfed middle aged women sitting around tut-tutting.These qualitative elements are specious qualitiesbelonging to a scenario that is in fact decontextualized.
Mustang is decontextualised because it omits the defining elements of social relations that connect its various parts to the whole: religion, work and the past.
The house into which the sisters are progressively walled up exists in a vacuum of smileshand wringing and threats.Although the mosque is depicted as close by in the village no call to prayer is heard; there is no attendance at Friday prayers, there is no reference to the Koran in the dialogues with the sisters.Religion in itself is bracketed out.Likewise work relations, the matrices of industry or agriculture that form the basis of the wealth of the lives of the families represented, are completely absent.Work is bracketed out.And the past, the sisters inhabit a cocoon of the present with no apparent ties to their parents.As in the fairy tale we are simply informed that their parents are dead. The sisters are being brought up by relatives who take on the role of foster parents.
The sisters are represented as being unconcerned with their orphaned status.In classic fairy tale mode they looked after and over by others who are removed form them.With this status, as beings bound not by blood ties but by artificial arrangements, they are free to allow their stories to transmute into the mythic realm.
Of course the stories as collected by the Brothers Grimm’soften feature multiplicities of siblings: six brothers three sisters.This multiplication of identities allows the individual psyche to play out differentiated responses to testing situations.Typically the older siblings in one way or another fail the tests they are set.Generally it is the youngest of the sibling group who solves the problems, who overcomes the obstacles and gains the prize.The idea being perhaps that success results from multiple failures and that an open soul unburdened by process of age will pass the tests.Lale in Mustang who also acts as narrator, is the youngest of the sisters and is the heroine of the tale.
The psychic tests set infairy tales are many, but most seem to embody the idea of completing or advancing onto a higher form of self: a spiritual development to complement the physical; the searching within to connect with complementary powers not assigned by birth gender or sex. Common themes are escape from imprisonment or enchantment, searches for cures, searches for completion.
Erguven’s Mustang tells of escape from entrapment.As the sisters are progressively walled up and married off, mostly against their will, Lale observes the unfolding horror and makes plans to thwart her fate.Like all successful escapees in the realm of myth she knows that to escape she has to understand her prison intimately, both its physical and its psychic lay out.And she also has to recruit allies to assist her when she needs help.Lale needs to be energetic resourceful and brave if she is to make her jump.She will have to connect with her male energies that have been suppressed by her culture of confinement: the bullying of the men, the blandishments of the women.
She will also have to find an ally, a good fox who will appear at the critical moment to give her assistance at the moment of greatest danger.
And so it comes to pass, Lale with her sister Nur, escape from their confinement, breaking the spell of the wicked uncle.There can of course be no going back, as the two sisters are transported into a new world, a city of multiple spires and different relations.