Why writer Almara Abgarian thinks a follow-up to the popular erotic film is problemtic for all women.
Warning: this feature discusses issues of sexual assault which may prove triggering for some.
Imagine this: you wake up in a strange room where you are told by a man you have met once before that he has been obsessed with you for years and that you have 365 days to fall in love with him. During that year he manhandles you, grabbing your body as he pleases, warns you not to provoke him and tells you how to behave.
Does that sound like the making of a romantic movie? Or a nightmare? 365 Days (or 365 DNI), on Netflix, suggests it’s the former. And what’s more worrying is that the Polish film looks to be getting a sequel after appearing to be confirmed by its lead actor – Michele Morrone – after becoming one of the streaming site’s most-watched recent films.
The news comes despite a petition on Change.org calling for the film to be removed from the streaming site. “These kinds of movies not only completely disregard all the progress women have made, in being seen as more than our bodies, but it also portrays a terrifying example for young men and women, especially teens,” the petition reads.
Some social media users have also come out against the film commenting that: “this 365 days movie is actually all sexual assault and kidnapping and it’s actually disgusting. Like why is there so much hype about this. None of it is consensual, and if it is it’s bc of Stockholm Syndrome, and they are romanticizing rape.”
“People be like ‘omg that film 365 days’ when it literally glorifies murder, extortion, kidnapping, rape, sexual assault, physical assault, bribery, and human trafficking,” reads another.
I totally agree with their call to arms. When I watched the film, I felt sick to my stomach. It tells the story of Massimo, a rich Italian mafia boss who kidnaps Laura (Anna-Maria Sieklucka), a Polish woman who has a deadbeat boyfriend. At first, she fights back and tries to escape her gilded cage, but about halfway through the writers shift the narrative into a sweet love story. Spoiler alert: there is nothing sweet or loving about it.
I found it deeply triggering. I have been stalked on my way home, certain that I was about to be raped, and only escaped because a group of people came around the corner and I ran in their direction. I have been sexually harassed. I have experienced a mentally abusive relationship with a controlling man. I have friends who have been beaten and raped by men, both strangers and people they trusted. A film that normalises this behaviour should not be a blockbusting franchise.
People have compared the film to 50 Shades of Grey – 365 Days is also based on a three-part book series. While I have issues with 50 Shades of Grey and how it tackled the topic of BDSM (badly) and the power dynamic between men and women (also badly), its saving grace was that the entire franchise revolved around the big C: consent.
Sex too is a central feature in 365 Days. There is lot of graphic sex between the protagonists Massimo and Anna, including a four-minute boat scene where they have sex in every position and on every surface of a yacht. Some viewers reported feeling hot under the collar at the sight. But I can’t accept that sex without consent is ever sexy, and it is here that 365 Days falls down.
Massimo grabs Laura’s breasts at the start of the film without her consent, but he gave her countless orgasms later on, so it’s fine, right?
Massimo is holding Laura against her will, but he buys her lots of designer clothes and keeps her in a luxury villa, so it’s all good, right?
It’s important to acknowledge that there are those who find great pleasure in captor-captive and kidnapping fantasies, or just really rough sex, and there is nothing wrong with that. Exploring your sexual kinks is healthy. Many of us like giving the power to our partner in the bedroom – myself included – but that ‘giving’ of power to someone else is merely an illusion of control. In reality, by consenting to this act, by willingly putting your safety in someone else’s hands, you are completely in control.
But Laura didn’t give herself to Massimo. He Stockholm Syndromed her into submission. That is not love or passion.
By blurring the lines of consent, we risk undoing years of fighting for equality and safety for women. And TV and cinema offer one of our most powerful mediums, they can influence people’s mind for better and for worse.
As an example, I May Destroy You by Michaela Coel tackles the topic of consent beautifully through its nuanced take. The show acknowledges that language around consent can at times be complicated and that consent isn’t always vocalised, but that it is imperative, non-negotiable.
What angers me the most about the prospect of a sequel to 365 Days is that it is another opportunity to glorify sexual assault, kidnapping and coercive control and dress it up as some kind of grand romantic gesture, so that the viewer won’t notice – and that is where the real danger lies. It cements the idea that women are objects to be owned and that as long as you shower us with fine gems, clothes and attention, it is acceptable to abuse us. Keep your money, I’d rather have my freedom, thanks.
If you, or anyone you know, has experienced sexual violence, you can call the Rape Crisis national helpline on 0808 802 9999 for advice and support (open 12- 2.30pm and 7-9.30pm daily). You can also find your nearest Rape Crisis centre and visit the website for more information.
365 DNI is on Netflix now
Images: Netflix, Universal Pictures, BBC