CONTENT NOTE: Contains mentions of consent violations and abduction. Reader discretion is advised. Also, for anyone who hasn’t yet watched the film 365 Days (365 DNI) a spoiler alert is now in effect!
So recently, everyone has been going crazy over the latest mainstream erotic story phenomenon 365 Days or 365 DNI (the first in a trilogy) in its native Polish. It’s a film on Netflix adapted from the book, written by Polish author Blanka Lipinska, who also co-wrote the screenplay for the film adaptation. It’s currently not available in English, however once it is available, I’m curious about reading it to see how the book and film compare.
People are comparing it to Fifty Shades of Grey in means of it’s erotic popularity, however kink and BDSM isn’t really a theme in this story. It’s similar in means of how it’s viewed in the public eye however: not much story, but a lot of hot sex.
So being a sex blogger and writer of erotica myself (not that I claim to be an amazing erotica writer, because I’m not) I figured I could use my experience and qualifications in Creative Writing (Master of Arts) and Performance (Bachelor of Arts) to break it down and add my thoughts on the film.
Going with what most have said, there really isn’t much plot at all in this story. There are various plot holes and plotlines that could have been elaborated on but just disappear as quick as they appear.
The basic plot of the story is this: Italian mob boss Massimo is now head of his crime family, after inheriting it from his father who was shot and killed. He becomes infatuated with a woman who he’s been obsessed with after briefly seeing on a beach five years before when his father died, Laura. Long story short, while she’s on holiday, he kidnaps her, and gives her 365 days (1 year) to fall in love with him. If nothing changes in her feelings by the end of that time he’ll let her go.
Honestly, aside from this basic concept, this film has possibly the flimsiest plot I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen and read quite a few flimsy plots. While I’m no expert on erotic romance or erotica, from a writing standpoint, you can’t splice together semi-erotic and erotic scenes with gorgeous cinematography, with a flimsy plot and call it an erotic romance. Not bashing the actors, as the actors can only do so much with a poorly written (in my opinion) script.
As a reader and viewer, I want to see a solid concept with character development, primary and perhaps a secondary narrative etc. Granted I loved the cinematography. The costume design, architecture and general feel of the film is visually, very much my cup of tea. But that alone can’t sell me.
Let’s face it, this is one of the reason’s why everyone’s watching it. I have to say, I think the sex was done really well. Given it being a Polish/Italian made movie, the approach to depicting sex and nudity is more liberal and open as opposed to what I’ve seen in a lot of British and American films. I’ve seen it commented by quite a few folks on the interwebs, as to how some of these sex scenes were done without any of the actors actually having sex.
Coming from a performance background, this is where I can offer up some insight. This speculation can be answered usually in three forms: underwear (primarily a thong) that matches the actors’ skin tone, something called ‘modesty plasters’ to cover genitalia, but are known throughout the industry for being absolute shite, and clever camera angles. In the infamous ‘boat scene’ in one shot I noticed said underwear on the actress in a brief shot of them on the bed.
Out of context of the story, the sex itself I think was done pretty damn well, along with more dominant gestures such as that neck grab in the shower scene. Out of context, very hot indeed. However with the context taken into account, sex alone cannot drive your story forward. You need a solid plot and this film just did not have it.
This is the kicker with this film and story altogether: it’s hella problematic themes. First off we have big one: the kidnapping. Massimo kidnaps Laura, essentially keeping her hostage for up to a year, so she can fall in love with him. That, my friend, is not love. That is Stockholm Syndrome.
And while many are saying it romanticises Stockholm Syndrome, and in manner does, this is actually not an uncommon theme in a lot of romances, dark romances and even erotic romances/erotica. Kidnapping fantasies are surprisingly pretty common, but obviously outside of its niche audience, may not transcend so well on the page, or as in this case, the screen. Perhaps a CNC (consensual non-consent) arrangement between the characters would have been a better plotline, exploring a kink together. At least an element of consent would actually be in the story then, perhaps.
Another common theme is this: The hardened, dominant man who’s not used to being told ‘no’ thinking he can get whatever and whomever he wants, by any means necessary. Usually, there is some kind of redemption arc, however flimsy or strong, in his character as the story goes on. But again, I’ve seen it all too often where this is not the case.
From my experience as a reader, there’s usually a case of the heroine pulling a ‘Ok, I’ll go along with your stupid idea. But it’s not going to work.’ thing. However, this film merely perpetuates, like we saw in Fifty Shades of Grey, that if a (generally speaking, rich, cis and straight) man resorts to stalker-like behaviour (yeah, I said it!) with a mixture of obsessively trying to control her, trying to police what she wears, with a montage of showering her with expensive gifts, he can eventually bag the girl of his dreams. My opinion? No. Not cool. Not healthy. Just no.
Also when it comes to the sex scenes, around three scenes in particular stuck out to me that I found could have used better stating of consent, or was just outright uncomfortable to watch. First, I feel the ‘Massimo face-fucking the flight attendant’, while it was depicted as the flight attendant being pleased and enjoying it, I personally would have liked a simple’ Do you want to?’ But that’s me.
Another was having Laura in bondage while she’s made to watch another woman give Massimo a blowjob, in an attempt to rouse her jealousy. Afterwards he, still naked, crawls on top of her essentially telling her he’ll do what he likes with her, despite him pulling the ‘I won’t touch you without permission’ line earlier in the film.
If I were in Laura’s position there, I’d have been screaming bloody murder and be absolutely terrified. As well, this violation of his earlier promise came in the form of feeling her up on his private jet while she’s tied up, because she doesn’t want to go with him to wherever it is he’s going with his henchmen. Again, as a reader and writer, I like to see some clear respect of consent at the VERY least. Just ignoring and hoping for the best is not romance, it’s a crime. So depicting this as ‘dominance’ in a supposed ‘romance’ really doesn’t sit well with me.
Like many said about Fifty Shades of Grey, if our leading man wasn’t a hot rich guy, it would play out more like an SVU episode. Not to be harsh, but these elements of this film considered, I’m inclined to agree.
So overall? Yeah…it was an experience to say the least! If you’re looking for a good erotic film, I wouldn’t recommend it personally. If you want to watch it just to say you have, by all means do. But be warned, it’s up there with FSOG for not being the most riveting piece around.
*Image credit – imdb.com