As always, spoilers ahead.
Mustang and The Virgin Suicides are really two very different movies. The setting is different. Mustang is set in a village in Turkey while The Virgin Suicides is suburbia of Michigan. The view focus is different. Mustang is seen from the POV of the sisters with a view focus on their lives. TVS is seen from the POV of the neighbourhood boys where the view focus is their interpretation of the girls’ lives.
As the movies unfurl, we see how different the stories are as well.
TVS plays into the ‘bored white girl’ trope, at times making a parody of it – like when the boys try to decipher the meaningless scrawls of their diary and theorize what it could imply (the line, “what we have here is a dreamer” is a consequence of that). The movie is deep rooted in the western sensibilities which play as a background throughout the movie. It dwells heavily on the mystery that the girls are shrouded in. We see this as emptiness from the girls’ lives and as fascination from the boys. They internalize this house arrest they are placed under, only wishing to see the outside world rather than be in it. It feels like they have accepted their situation and rather than rebel against it have found ways to live with it.
Mustang is the opposite; the girls rebel at every chance they get, like they alone will have the final say in their lives. It deals with themes of identity and freedom. The movie is about what happens to each of their lives and aims to shed light in the various ways women’s lives are policed.
When I watched the trailer of Mustang, it reminded me of TVS. And even after I watched it, I could not shake off that feeling. And now that I have set tone to why they are different, I want to talk about representation- Starkly similar scenes that play out in the two movies while their end purpose is different.
The manner in which certain shots are represented were very insightful. Though their presence in the movie had different motives, and different outcomes, in isolation these shots were interchangeable. Some of these shots are
When the girls are under house arrest (happens in both movies, duh).
TVS aims to show the desolation in isolation. Mustang aims to show the urge for freedom from the entrapment.
Both movies have one sister die (in TVS all of them do, but Cecilia, the youngest one commits suicide first) by committing suicide. While TVS uses this to exacerbate the clandestine thoughts of the sisters, Mustang uses it as a definitive. We have cause (her uncle sexually molests her and she is about to get married against her will) and action (her sudden promiscuity and deliberate insinuations to irritate her uncle which precede her death) for the girl’s death and consequences (her younger sister is to marry the man she was ‘promised’ to). While Cecilia’s death and attempts of death are shot in a manner that feels delicate and tragic, like a flower crushed under a heel; Ece’s (from Mustang) is not even in the frame. We feel the consequence of it, which is what the director wants us to focus on.
Both movies have one sister acting out sexually, but again Lexi from TVS is portrayed as uninhibited which accentuates under the stifiling circumstances where as Ece from Mustang is trying to push her luck out of spite after being sexually abused by her uncle and she ultimately kills herself.
And finally, there is the house arrest itself. In TVS a conservative family sends their daughters to prom and when one of them breaks curfew because she sleeps with her high-school prom date and falls asleep on the football field- they stop letting their daughters go to school altogether.
In Mustang, the girls play in the beach with their classmates and when their uncle and grandmother hear of it, they place the girls on house arrest after performing a virginity test on them.
The emotional chord struck by these representations are the same, despite their unique circumstances. And this is because, underneath the void and the fight, the house arrest bred melancholy. And the orthodox branch of the Western and Middle Eastern worlds share their need to moral police their girls. In the end, it is the humanity, both good and ugly which is the commonality in the movies’ representations.
On a separate note, please listen to this song from the soundtrack of The Virgin Suicides. It will change your life. Also watch the two movies if you have not and let me know what you think.