“We all have skeletons in the closet.”
This is what a captured foe exclaims before he’s executed by mafia boss Don Torricelli (Michele Morrone). It’s a scene meant to display Don’s brutality, but it also announces that there are no heroes in this story. 365 DNI (AKA 365 DAYS translated to English) is a Polish erotic thriller, housed by Netflix. It is a bleak, nihilism-drenched descent into depravity – mostly violent or sexual. The film revolves around Don in the aftermath of a violent entanglement. His survivor’s guilt stemming from the death of his father leads him to pursue a mate, who turns out to be Laura (Anna-Maria Sieklucka). But his means towards pursuing her eviscerate any chances of developing actual love for her.
The film begins with a flashback, where Don witnesses the murder of his father. Shortly before the murder, his father instills in him that, “It’s time for you to stop thinking about fun and pleasure… You have to take on your responsibilities.” Don proceeds to spend the next two hours thinking mostly about fun and pleasure. He does assume his father’s role in the mafia, but this doesn’t distract him from stalking Laura when he first runs into her.
When we first meet Laura, she’s a hard-working exec, but stuck in an unfulfilling relationship. Her boyfriend is diligent about his work, often turning down her advances for sex. This clearly sets him as a foil for Don. We’re then “treated” to dualing scenes where Laura uses a vibrator and Don violently forces a flight attendant to perform oral sex. The flight attendant ends up enjoying the tryst, effectively framing what this movie thinks about the women it portrays – they enjoy being objectified and completely subservient.
Don and Laura experience a few run-ins, until she’s finally kidnapped by the would-be stranger. Once she’s in his possession, his proposition is simple – he plans to keep her hostage for a year or until she falls in love with him – whichever comes first. Don rationalizes the kidnapping by telling Laura about the attack that killed his father, and almost killed Don as well. During his near death experience, it was Laura’s face that flashed before his eyes. This despite the fact that he had yet to meet her. He then spent five years searching for the face of this stranger until he finally tracks her down. He prefaces the story by saying, “What I’m about to tell you is incredible.” If by that, he means we’ll think the story was concocted by a buffoon, then sure. His idiotic reason for justifying his actions is at least acknowledged. When he tells Laura that fate brought them together, she retorts, “It wasn’t fate, it was you.”
Don is hilariously obsessed with sex. While getting Laura to calm down, he tells her to suck an ice cube. He states “I’d like you to teach me how to be gentle… for you?” The ‘for you’ part brings an exclamation point to the implicit fantasy. The fantasy is that of the domineering man, one who is rough, rugged, and violent, but later shows the capability of being sensitive. And he’s changing and becoming more sensitive FOR YOU. You’ve warmed his cold heart. But it falls flat in the context of this film – he’s still guilty of kidnapping. In addition, she has done nothing to make him fall in love or to elicit this change of heart. All she does is shop or sit in a chair to complain, they’re not connecting as human beings. It’s a dangerous fantasy to purport, one easily consumed by the young and impressionable.
There’s a song that pops up early in the soundtrack, called I Think You Should Know. Outside of James Bond, it’s not often that a movie has it’s own theme song. This song ends up playing at a random point in the film – nothing even remotely interesting or punctuated has happened, the movie just plays the song to kill time. However, I’d rather listen to I Think You Should Know than any other music the film has to offer. The soundtrack is atrocious. Some of the songs are moderately tolerable. Then, there are others that sound like a band that can barely get bookings at a sushi bar.
It should be important to note that 365 DNI is based on the first in a trilogy of books, by author Blanka Lipinska. So yes, there’s plenty of sequel baiting at the end of the movie, and yes you can easily tell what really happens at the climax even as the movie attempts to be “mysterious” and “open-ended”. Given the film’s popularity on streaming, I imagine there will be a sequel. The path the narrative is headed is one consistent of the erotic and romance genres – incredibly combustible relationships and the fantasy of being pursued by multiple partners.
In at least the first adaptation, the unhealthy aspect of the relationship is the draw. It can’t be the plot or characters, both of which are mediocre at best. It’s because of the kidnapping, blackmail, violence, none of which are depicted in typical on-screen relationships, that draws viewers in. I don’t think that necessarily makes audiences bad people; other genres such as slasher and mafia movies are also built on showing an ugly side to humanity. But there isn’t much to this movie other than the ugly side. It feels like one long music video (with shitty music to boot) with some sex scenes thrown in.
Thus, 365 DNI misses the mark. There’s a version of the story that could possibly be captivating, but the film settles for the trashiest, least interesting version of its tropes. The psychology of these characters are never broached, so they simply play into a bad fantasy rather than helping to make the story engaging or exciting. It’s also a plot that goes in circles – Laura’s relationship with Don reaches a critical point about an hour into the movie, and then stays that way for the rest of the film without much in the way of conflict. As a result, the second half of the film is like watching the same scenes over and over, just in different locations. When the inevitable sequels arrive, it would be nice if they can exhibit some actual storytelling rather than relying on sex and a paper thin plot. Oh, and can we get a real band too?