This has been the surprise movie of 2016 for me so far. Set in Northern Turkey it is Director Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s debut feature, and one which will get him noticed. The film is set in modern day Turkey in a rural community, seemingly modern, but privately conservative. One early summer’s day the 5 sisters around who the story revolves are at the beach on the way home playing with some of the local boys. By the standards of the “western viewer” their actions were nothing of any much worth to notice, but in conservative small town Islamic Turkey, this was too much, young men/boys and girls playing about in such a manner was not acceptable. Their sins were to be kids. Hearing of their actions from the complaint of an old neighbour, the girls’ grandmother (Nihal G. Koldas) acts to curtail the situation.
Effective immediately, in order to prevent further shame to the household, the girls are forced in to “traditional” shapeless dresses, and no more unsuitable western clothing, which might corrupt their young neighbours. As if this was not enough the girls are effectively placed under house-arrest, not allowed out to mix with friends or swim.
As this incarceration rises tensions, the girls’ uncle (Aybert Pekcan), their guardian does nothing to settle the situation, turning the family home effectively into a prison, with new locks on the doors, bars on the windows, and gates to block access. Against all of these changes, the girls continue to fight back in an attempt to control their own lives, not always successfully. In all this very definite characters arise among the girls as they, ultimately futilely, fight back against what is being imposed on them.
The ultimate humiliation being visited upon the girls, is their marrying-off, almost immediately upon events starting, their uncle decides it is time to find them suitable local husbands. What follows is a very sharp look at the clash between the modern world and traditional conservative practices of an older generation. Much of the film deals with how the girls are forced to come to terms with this and accept their new husbands, or not.
An interesting sub-plot, is the attempt by the girls to escape their destiny, and live the western life they dream about. Will they all be able to escape?
At first glance this would seem as a light-hearted drama comedy, however, as the movie progresses the darker clash of cultures begins to drive the film. As with any well-crafted movie there are moments of light-hearted hilarity to counter-point the deeply unsettling aspects of the movie.
Well worth the time taken to watch it, one of the best movies that I’ve seen so far in 2016. 4/5