Positioning itself as Polish cinema’s answer to the Fifty Shades of Grey book and film series, author Blanka Lipinska’s 365 Days (365 dni) is adapted by filmmaker Barbara Bialowas. The result is something quite staggering – fabulously engrossing, dripping in high camp, trashy sexual decadence and overwrought melodrama. It’s a conflicting paradox – one that’s engrossing in its campy values, but from a cinematic standpoint often laughable and poorly executed – yet that in some warped fashion purely adds to its appeal.
Successful Polish sales director Laura (Anna Maria Sieklucka) finds her trip to Sicily flipped when she is kidnapped by Mafia boss Massimo Torricelli (Michele Morrone). Massimo tells Laura that she cannot leave and has 365 days to fall in love with him. Laura initially resists Massimo’s dominant, womanising ways despite sexual gameplaying and highly taut teasing between the pair. However as the time spent between the pair increases, the sexual passion and intensity reaches boiling point, Massimo and Laura find their relationship taking new routes.
Despite the presence of a female writer and director, the female characters of the film lack any real sense of self-worth leading to countless problematic scenarios that feel troubling in the age of the #MeToo movement. Whilst Laura initially resists, this facade falls eventually with some rough teasing, physical intimidation and sexual exploitation courtesy of Massimo, she soon falls into a willing sexual and subsequently romantic relationship with him. Stereotypes of female characters – charmed by a man with a large bank balance open to limitless shopping trips (queue designer shopping bag filled montages) – fill 365 Days. Yet if willing to ignore, these prominent and challengingly problematic concepts, Bialowas’s film is titillating, amusing, high camp spectacle.
Soundtracked with a blend of contemporary pop songs and lead actor Michele Morrone’s original compositions, 365 Days puts sex at the forefront. There’s an impressive sense of longing built up the overwrought sexual build up – with the bulldozer style sex appeal feeling reminiscent of 90s erotic camp masterpieces Basic Instinct (yet maybe this has more in common with Basic Instinct 2), The Colour of Night, Showgirls, and Striptease. This paired with wooden delivery from Anna Maria Sieklucka – albeit the actress showcasing a physical openness in the plentiful nudity expected of her here – resulting in often unintentionally comic over-sexualised moments.
Whilst Morrone suffers from his character’s one-dimensional sexual aggressiveness (which suddenly disappears when the film opts for a more romantic tone) – he’s a magnetic, stunning presence who manages to carry a somewhat off-kilter chemistry with Sieklucka. However, these performers are not there for their acting prowess – they are both extremely beautiful stars who look good naked and that is something that adds to the appeal of 365 Days. It’s a very sexy, erotic and Bialowas directs these scenes capturing their animalistic, passionate appeal.
The narrative twists and turns with a frantic energy with many of the scenes focussed on story development half-baked, and other less important scenes exploitatively over the top. Yet 365 Days is massively entertaining and Morrone and Sieklucka engage with their presence. Bialowas’s direction lacks any form of subtlety and delivers its eroticism like a sledgehammer – but the high camp, two dimensional tone of her feature is engrossing in a so bad it’s wonderful kind of way. One thing is for certain, we’ll be first in line for a sequel.