Watch IN BED: Mustang

Words by Sophie McComas

The house became a wife factory that we never came out of.


Initially, there’s a feeling about this irreverent 2015 Turkish film by first-time feature director Deniz Gamze Ergüven that reminds you of Sofia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides. Five sisters, each so filled with life that it bubbles up and bursts out of them, become ensnared against their wills, trapped within a patriarchal demand to keep them chaste and controlled. Rather than narrated through the eyes of male love interests, as it is in Coppola’s film, the tale of these close sisters is portrayed through each of their attempts to free themselves.


Mustang is set in a remote coastal town in Turkey where the orphaned girls live with their uncle and aunt. At first, the scene is beautiful, idyllic even. The girls wander home from school on the first day of summer, their long hair is loose, swinging down to their waists. They pick and eat wild apples and meet up with friends at the beach to frolic in the clear, clean water fully clothed in their school uniforms. Soon, things deteriorate, with Ergüven portraying the sense that no woman is truly free in modern Turkey.

Women are sexualised from a very young age – primed for marriage and kept “unsullied” until they are wed. It’s an enslavement that is almost medieval.


Spurned by local gossip focused on their “obscene behaviour”, the girls are quickly imprisoned by bars and locked doors inside their uncle and aunt’s home – which soon reveals itself as a “wife factory”. The sisters are beaten, dressed in drab, shapeless garments, instructed on darning and cooking and forbidden to interact with the outside world, except, of course, for the alarming parade of queasy suitors invited around to inspect them, as if they were calves at a cattle show.

The plight of each sister, as they each gradually draw closer to their destiny, is at once acutely alarming, disturbing and inspiring. The film is tense, taut like a string set to snap, fibre by fibre. The heroine? Not whom you might expect.