I left the theater with my mouth open and my mind racing to comprehend what I had just seen after watching David Wnendt’s film, Wetlands. This is by no means a movie for the family to sit down and watch on a Sunday night. In fact, it may be so unholy that it shouldn’t be played on Sunday at all. The film couldn’t go five minutes without the audience shuddering in a flurry of emotion. I don’t have a sensitive stomach at all and even I was fighting my body’s reflex to gag at times. But in all its un-holiness, its gruesome subject, its visceral imagery, it is actually a pretty fantastic film.
This German film (based on the novel by Charlotte Roche) definitely come’s off strong to the average American audience, and aside from a festival, I’m not sure any theater would be able to hold it in house. However it’s a film with a lot to say and express, even if it is in a way that I have never remotely seen before.
The story revolves around Helen, a teenage girl who is curious about her own body and limits (or lack thereof) it may be pushed to, especially of an erotic nature. She is very experimental in her exploration of her own body. She believes the scent of her vagina is what boys will fall for, and has no problem pleasuring herself only to rub the bodily fluid around her neck to enhance the smell. She also has no problem getting eaten out in public by a boy she just med at a food hut, or sharing used tampons with her “blood sister” and best friend.
There’s plenty more vivid examples to draw from, but if you take away all that, you have a teenage girl struggling to deal with the loneliness first reaped by her parents divorce, along with parenting techniques that would ruin any child.
Helen’s most immediate problem though, is the fact that she cut inside her anus as she was grooming her pubic hair, which along with her hemorrhoids, has made it unbearably painful. She goes to the hospital and must undergo surgery. She takes advantage of this unfortunate circumstance to attempt and get her parents in the same spot in foolish hopes that they will be able to fix their differences.
Helen is played by Carla Juri. I can’t imagine a more extreme role for a young woman to play, but the performance is quite remarkable. I would imagine Juri’s performance lined up exactly to how Wnendt imagined it. And the direction of the film is pretty impressive as well. With such controversial and unpleasant themes, Wnendt maintains a sense of tastefulness somehow.
If you are brave enough to see Wetlands, definitely take the opportunity, but be warned it is not for the easily queasy or sheltered individual. It will definitely blow the doors off whatever innocence you have left.