Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5.
Turkey/France/Qatar/Germany, 2015. CG Cinéma, Vistamar Filmproduktion, Uhlandfilm, Bam Film, Kinology,Canal+, Cine+, ZDF/Arte, Eurimages, Turkish Culture Ministry, Centre National De La Cinematographie, Filmforderungsanstalt, Film- und Medienstiftung NRW, Doha Film Institute. Screenplay by Deniz Gamze Ergüven, Alice Winocour. Cinematography by David Chizallet, Ersin Gok. Produced by Charles Gillibert. Music by Warren Ellis. Production Design by Serdar Yemisci. Costume Design by Selin Sozen. Film Editing by Mathilde Van de Moortel. Academy Awards 2015. European Film Awards 2015. Golden Globe Awards 2015. Toronto International Film Festival 2015.
Five girls are being raised by their uncle and grandmother in a small Turkish village, their parents’ absence not explained in detail. They are beautiful and self-confident, ranging from pre-teen to fully ripe teenager, which is a matter of concern for their conservative guardians when on the last day of school they are spotted frolicking (fully clothed) on the beach with male students and immediately forced into seclusion at home. Their grandmother goes into overdrive turning them into proper young marriageable women, their summer becoming lessons in cuisine and housekeeping, quickly arranging the nuptials of the two eldest before moving on to the younger three. The youngest of these ladies, Lale, is the fiercest firebrand of them all, passionate about soccer, incensed at what she sees is the destruction of her sisters’ individual identities in arranged marriages and the oppressive sexism that is all around her. Meanwhile, their uncle and grandfather do their best to build higher walls and stronger window barriers but can’t seem to keep the burgeoning femininity that is blooming like tropical flowers in his house from busting out. This stunner by first-time feature filmmaker Deniz Gamze Ergüven hits high marks on all counts, the antidote for a similarly-themed but preachy film like When We Leave. Here, the viciously beautiful rebellion is couched very comfortably in a nuanced understanding of its characters’ humanity, and most importantly, in plenty of humour. The centre of their system is a corrupt, dark blackness that can be afforded no sympathy, but there’s a lot of understanding for their elder women who know seem to be hemming these women in for what they think is their own good. You want to see these girls, who are all stunningly natural, run away from this world and succeed, but you see one of their aunts knocking out an electrical transformer to keep the men from seeing them on television and you realize that everyone’s just doing their best. Günes Sensoy as young Lale is a standout, a deeply intelligent performance from such a young actor, whose solid gaze holds everyone around her responsible for their actions.