‘365 Days’ Cinematographer on Creating Netflix’s Most Graphic Sex Scenes

Bartek Cierlica spoke to Variety about not wanting to "create porn," while staying true to the movie's steamy source material.
365 Days
"365 Days"

If there’s one movie on Netflix that everybody’s streaming, it’s the Polish sex odyssey “365 Days,” which currently sits at No. 1 on the platform’s Top 10 most-watched films in the U.S. What’s being dubbed “the Polish ’50 Shades of Grey'” topped the charts shortly after its June 7 premiere, drawing eyes for its already infamously graphic sex scenes about a mafia man who kidnaps an alluring woman after failing to protect his father from being assassinated. Massimo (Michele Morrone) gives Laura (Anna Maria Sieklucka) exactly 365 days to fall in love with him, or else she’s free to return to her unhappy life in Poland.

Cinematographer Bartek Cierlica recently spoke with Variety about shooting the movie, which is based on a steamy novel by Blanka Lipińska. Wild sexual encounters and nudity abound in this Netflix bodice ripper that’s even inspired TikTok users to take to social media to share their experiences watching the film — including a four-minute montage, set on a yacht, halfway through that is a bonafide supercut of acrobatic carnal activity where the two leads go crazy on each other’s bodies.

“We wanted the camera to be as much invisible as possible, to let them act, so indeed the takes were very, very long,” Cierlica said. “We created the most intimate atmosphere we could for the actors. We reduced the on-set crew to an absolute minimum. As it was handheld I was following their action, and trying to show their passion in a natural but beautiful way. We wanted this sex to be pretty authentic. We wanted the viewer to hear their whispers, heavy breaths and we wanted to show the sweat, passion. Be natural, authentic, but not to cross the border of pornography.”

Whether or not audiences are watching the entire film, or skipping around just to see the steamiest bits, is no matter for Netflix, because it still counts as a “view” on the platform either way, contributing to its continued place in the top 10. But Cierlica said the goal wasn’t to create something to be consumed like pornography.

“We didn’t want to create porn, but at the same time, we wanted to do justice to the book that is pretty full of very intimate and passionate sex descriptions,” he said. “I knew that as a DP I was walking on very thin ice. It is always a big challenge when you have to bring to life a story that people know and have their idea about. Here the challenge was doubled — how to make it seductive and erotic within the borders of general good taste and my aesthetic.”

While the story is rooted in elements of Stockholm syndrome and date rape, the cinematographer said that “365 Days” is meant to be an empowering adult fairytale for women. “The female hero is far stronger and more emancipated than the girls from old fairy tales,” he said.

The film, directed by Barbara Bialowas and Tomasz Mandes, has received scathing reviews, but that’s not stopping Netflix users’ curiosity as the movie continues to hang on in Netflix’s top chart.

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