Wetlands is the kind of movie that creates a buzz the second it’s screened. Once you’ve seen the trailer, you’ll understand why. I was actually goofing off on Facebook when I first came across this clip. A post from Indiewire popped into my feed and when I saw that the film was described, as “gleefully disgusting” I couldn’t resist. I was intrigued from the moment I pressed play and I knew I’d be making a movie run to see this one in the near future.
A few days later, on opening weekend, my husband Christoph and I headed to our local indie theater in search of a good time. We walked into an empty theater and quickly took our seats. Empty happens a lot at indie theaters, so I wasn’t worried. By the time the movie started, however, I’d heard the door behind us open and shut several times. We were no longer alone. Other folks had showed up to check out this German film adaptation of Charlotte Roche’s novel, Feuchtgebiete. By the time the opening credits started rolling, everyone in my theater—all seven of us–were ass deep in the disgustingly disturbing visual nature of Wetlands.
It’s baptism by fire with this girl because we’ve only just met and we’re already in a nasty public restroom with her, watching her pee. Helen’s bright, cheerful, gross, beautiful, and getting to know her is fun. It’s in this same restroom that she describes her unique approach to personal hygiene (and sex) as a series of experiments. It seems Helen rebels against everything, on every level.
Social norms are challenged, taboo subjects are broached and visceral reactions are provoked, all through the story of a girl and her hemorrhoids. There is one thing this film isn’t, though, and that’s for the squeamish. You delicate folks are going to want to get over that, if you’re looking to get into Wetlands.
Carla Juri who plays Helen is perfection. She’s inappropriately jovial, manic and quirky in the most disturbing sense of the word. Juri is the clear standout in this film and she does a contrastingly elegant job of conveying the complexities that the make up Helen’s psyche. Juri is the only one keeping your eyes glued to the screen when every gut reaction is telling you to look away, so you don’t dry heave in public.
Image Source: Strand Releasing
Meret Becker and Axel Milberg play Helen’s mother and father, respectively. Both actors do fine jobs of portraying the parents of a girl stuck between losing control and finding acceptance. Becker makes a seemingly flaky character worthy of attention and breaks hearts with her somber gaze. Milberg makes a man we should dislike, charismatic and real. Their performances are subtle and yet significant, an excellent mix.
The remaining cast members come together nicely to create an atmosphere, which humanizes a girl that gets off on wiping public toilet seats down with her lady parts. Yes, you read that correctly and yes it’s an actual scene in the film. Don’t worry though, all that goes down before the opening credits even roll. Like I said, baptism by fire.
David Wnendt (Director) has a unique approach to storytelling that compliments Helen’s tale well. His fast-paced approach and surreal visuals make this movie fun to look at as well as watch. I suppose the only real problem I had with Wetlands is how quickly the story is resolved in the end. This neat and tidy ending contrasts too sharply with who the main character is. I’d say more, but I don’t want to spoil the fun for you.
While the ending was a tad too abrupt for my liking, I found that the performances stayed with me. Despite being savagely disgusting, this film is moving, if you aren’t afraid to look too closely. If you think you can stomach it, give Wetlands a try. What you like might surprise you.
Wetlands (Feuchtgebiete) – B
B = Watch it in a theater, stream it on T.V. or add it to your Netflix queue; chances are, you won’t curse me for recommending when the credits roll.
Image Source: Strand Releasing