Fifty Shades of Gray paved the way for a new genre of romance on the small and big screen. If it is in line with the Sam Taylor-Johnson film, 365 dni on Netflix however raises many more questions. Between apology for the culture of rape and eroticization of sequestration, why is the film so problematic?
Romance in the cinema takes a new path and becomes erotic. Unveiled on Netflix a few days ago, 365 dni (365 days in VF) is however far from unanimous despite the fact that it prances at the top of the ranking of the streaming platform. If 50 Shades of Gray was often mocked for the weakness of its plot, the Polish film raises many more questions about the representation of women in cinema. The adaptation of the Polish novels of the same name depicts the budding love between Massimo, a member of a Sicilian mafia, and Laura, a sales manager for a Polish company. While on vacation on the peninsula, the young woman is kidnapped by Massimo who gives her 365 days to fall in love with him. If at first glance, the scenario seems borrowed from Beauty and the Beast, the reality is quite different.
***Beware of plot spoilers***
In his introduction, 365 dni seems to invest in a message. We see Laura, in the middle of a conversation with her male colleagues. The young woman stands up to her audience, arguing that neither her sex nor her age should define the way she is treated within the company. But this is indeed the only feminist discourse that emanates from this plot where submission rhymes with seduction. Yes 50 shades of gray was betting on exploring another form of sexuality (sadomasochist), 365 dni broadcasts a much more problematic message at the time of the #metoo post.
Yes or no
The #metoo movement will have raised awareness and brought the notion of consent back to center stage. If in 50 shades of gray he is at the heart of the story, he is absent at every moment in the film by Barbara Bialowas and Tomasz Mandes. In addition to the heavy remarks of the male character, who accosts the young woman saying “Are you lost Baby Girl?”, the problem with 365 dni lies in the message it conveys. Many sequences are largely problematic, like that of the plane. Tied to her seat, the character finds herself struggling with her kidnapper, who will quickly slip his hand into her panties, without her being able to struggle. This scene also recurs later in the film, when Laura is again tied to a bed. The directors’ camera casts its lustful gaze on a scene that is nevertheless unbearable, a rape made glamorous for the sake of a plot that is meant to be romantic. 50 shades of gray had at least the merit of introducing this notion at several points in the film, even materializing consent through a contract.
When we look at the characters and especially the one embodied by Michele Morrone, the situation is far from improving. The figure of the narcissistic pervert on the screen is not new, but never has a film tried so hard to make him attractive. The character’s muscular build seems like enough of an excuse to present him as a modern-day knight. And when the story tries to question the toxic relationship between the characters, once again the film fails miserably. The main character’s best friend tries to make him come to his senses, but will quickly rally to his cause. The director Maïwenn and the actor Vincent Cassel had admirably constructed this type of captivating and frightening character, in My king. The film delivered a great lesson in psychology and approached destructive love with accuracy. 365 dni prefer him to “glamorize” excessively his character.
We also regret the image of the woman conveyed by the film, which implies that a good shopping session can excuse sexual assault and kidnapping. At several points, the film also falls into the clichés of the genre, in particular with a fitting scene heavily inspired by Pretty Woman. It should also be noted that on several occasions the young woman finds herself singled out for her alluring outfits.
Netflix, however accustomed to putting forward speeches of female emancipation, seems to have made a misstep by broadcasting this feature film released in theaters in Poland. On Change.org, the Soeurcières collective launched a petition asking for the removal of the title. “A film that promotes the culture of rape has no place on our screens, nor in our society. At no time is the notion of consent respected, sexual assaults are extremely numerous, the aggressor repeatedly threatens his victim to hurt her if she refuses to let him do what he wants with her… ” So far, it has more than 5,000 signatures. Questioned many times on social networks, Netflix has not yet commented. The actor, on the other hand, expressed himself on Instagram and recalled that he embodied a character. “I’m not the character, and I’m not that bad.” He also took the opportunity to announce that a second opus was already planned. Whether Netflix chooses to stream it remains to be seen.