Netflix’s ‘365 dni’: The Most Problematic Film of 2020?

One of the latest film releases on Netflix is the Polish erotic thriller, 365 dni. Sounds intriguing, right? I thought so too, especially when my friend had heard it was “so bad it’s good.” But I’m afraid this was not one of those completely comical Netflix viewings, this film was so bad it’s … bad.

The film is based on a novel by Polish writer Blanka Lipińska, and is about a mafia boss, Massimo, who obsesses over a girl, kidnaps her and gives her a year to fall in love with him. However, the film is extremely problematic because none of this is presented as an issue. For want of a better word, 365 dni is categorically ‘rapey’, and therefore leads to really uncomfortable viewing at every step.

Viewers are supposed to congratulate Massimo for his ability to refrain from rape, and celebrate when the girl, Laura, of course does fall in love with her possessive kidnapper. In the scene where Massimo explains the situation, he is presented as the hero who is saving her from the disloyal grasps of her cheating boyfriend. When Laura tries to run away, following his explanation, he caresses her breast and declares “I won’t do anything without your permission”, as if he isn’t so bad after all. Massimo adds “I’ll wait until you want me”, and when she does, this is depicted as the natural progression, rather than a forced abuse. Their blissful romance for the latter half of the film is unnerving when considering the foundations of their relationship. Following one of Laura’s other attempted escapes, Massimo had said “Sometimes fighting is futile. You have to accept the situation”, and it’s not a far stretch to view Laura’s sudden willingness to give Massimo a chance as an example of this surrender.

365 dni on Netflix Cast Guide: Michele Morrone, Anna Maria ...

Michele Morrone (who plays Massimo) is one of the most handsome man I have seen on my screen in years, which only makes the film even more inappropriate, with viewers perhaps excusing Massimo’s controlling behaviour because of his dreamy looks. I imagine cries such as: ‘surely being forced to fall in love with him isn’t so bad, after all he is good-looking!’ But that’s not the point. I do wonder if this film would have been welcomed in the same way if the male lead was not so charmingly sexy. Would we more readily view an average-looking man as a creep, and therefore Laura as the victim she truly is?

Viewers are also expected to brush past blatant sexism, with Massimo’s nickname for Laura being “baby girl”, and stereotypical comments such as “impressive amount of shoes for a five day holiday” reoccurring. Indeed, Laura is given barely any personality, other than being an attractive woman who reacts to Massimo’s actions. Plus, even though she is entrapped, Laura is depicted as a tease, sauntering around the house in a seductive red dress under the transfixed eyes of Massimo’s staff, and showering in front of Massimo (in the room designed by him for this purpose?!) At one point, Massimo even has the audacity to say “don’t provoke me”, as if her sexual allure excuses rape. The (shallow) presentation of Laura as a clothes mad, teasing woman culminates halfway through the film. Although Massimo physically forces Laura out shopping, this shopping montage consists of her flaunting new clothes whilst Massimo and his guards look bored and are left carrying the bags. Then, when Massimo walks in on her trying on lingerie, and refuses to leave when asked, the ‘teasing’ Laura moves in close to him, whispering seductively, “Or I guarantee you, this is the last time you’ll see it”. The greatest reminder that Laura is not in control comes as this statement elicits anger from Massimo, strangling her as he says, “I’ve ordered it, and I’m going to decide when I see it”. Lovely.

Last Saturday, The Mirror published an article about 365 dni, it’s headline beginning “Horrified Netflix Fans…”, and I thought I’d finally found some criticism of the film’s dubious morality, but no, the full headline read “Horrified Netflix Fans are making the mistake of watching 365 dni with parents.” This is in reference to the copious amount of sex scenes, as you may expect from the genre ‘erotic thriller’. These scenes are extremely graphic, in particular depicting blowjobs more explicitly than I had ever seen in a film before. The focus on this sex act introduces a power disparity, placing Massimo as the master surrounded by a harem of women, willing to gratify him. Indeed, all the sex scenes are problematic due to the questions of power and consent they raise.

The first sex scene is between Massimo and an air stewardess, initiated by him forcing her down onto a seat. Throughout the encounter, it is unclear if this blowjob is consensual, and the only sign that this is not forced is the smile she gives herself at the end. This sex scene is also mixed with shots of Laura masturbating, and whilst this is refreshing to see in a film, I do question the intent of depicting this. Coupled with the clips of Massimo and the air stewardess, I worry the suggestion is that sex-hungry Laura is just waiting for a man like Massimo to fulfil her, and so really his kidnapping is a blessing in disguise! And the scenes just get worse and worse. When Laura first sees Massimo naked, he says “Why are you looking at it?”, “Do you want to touch it”, as if he is a yobbish teen, and in a later scene, Massimo chains Laura to a bed and forces her to watch another lady perform fellatio (again!) on him. Even when Laura finally ‘falls’ for Massimo, and viewers are subjected to a four-minute-long scene of very graphic sex (I’m talking spitting and an intense zoom in on their entwined crotches), this is tainted by the knowledge that Laura is entrapped— Stockholm syndrome sex should not be sexy.

Even the terrible soundtrack becomes unnerving in collaboration with the plot: most of the songs are intensely sexual and injected with controlling language. With four songs being sung by Morrone, lyrical highlights include “this was on you, baby”, “I will never let you go now” (‘Feel it’), “I’m gonna teach you some French”, “touch me now, stop pretending” (‘Watch me Burn’), and “I have to have my dose now”, “oh baby, don’t waste your time” (‘Dark Room’). Finally, ‘Hard for me’ is even a song about entrapment, with the lines “Every time you wanna walk the door / I don’t blame you” coupling with “I won’t let you go”. This regressive music makes ‘Blurred Lines’ seem innocent, but is only fitting for a plotline such as 365 dni’s.

Amongst the problematic sex, just to top it all off, the film ends with the possible murder of the pregnant Laura. The death of an expectant mother is uncomfortable viewing in normal circumstances, never mind when it feels so out of place amongst a Pornhub-esque film. As 365 dni is left on this distasteful cliff-hanger, and with there being two other books in the series, there are talks of future film sequels. I’ll be crossing my fingers in the hope that isn’t true.

Unlike the Mirror who warns you not to watch 365 dni with your parents, I warn you not to watch it at all. Overall, the movie begs the question, how could this have been commissioned in 2020? A film that champions abusive behaviour and encourages female victim blaming, should never have been made, and yet it sits pride of place as the ‘most watched film’ on Netflix as I speak.

Words by Aimee Seddon

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