Wetlands (2013), originally premiered at the Locarno International Film Festival in 2013 and then went on to the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. If you’ve heard of the film, it’s either because you recognize the Charlotte Roche novel on which it is based, Feuchtgebiete, or you are like me and have heard of it because of its extremely bawdy, incredibly explicit and potentially nausea-inducing content.
Columnist Rebecca Schuman of Slate magazine described the film as Germany’s “Fifty Shades of Gross.”
The film, directed by David Wnendt, follows the story of Helen Memel (Carla Juri) as she creates the ultimate coming-of-age story. Helen leaves Jim Levenstein and his apple pie in the dust as she masturbates her way through her teen years with cucumbers, ginger, carrots, and avocado seeds.
The film depicts many of Helen’s less-than-vanilla sexual adventures as she develops her own sexual identity. Not a moment is spared to show how different Helen is from your typical 17-year-old; the film opens with Helen telling the audience, “As long as I can remember, I’ve had hemorrhoids.”
After growing up with a depressive, hygiene-obsessed mother (Meret Becker), Helen decides that personal hygiene is grossly overrated. Her parents are divorced and her only wish is that they would get back together, although her father (Axel Milberg) is insensitive and only pays attention to his own needs and desires.
This causes Helen to feel unloved and find solace in the adventures she pursues with her best friend, Corinna (Marlen Kruse), which include breaking most societal taboos. I will spare you the major details of Helen’s story; they should be seen rather than read in a brief review.
The story takes a serious turn when, after hastily shaving the hair around her anus, she cuts an anal hemorrhoid with her razor and she is rushed to the hospital. After being treated, Helen is required to stay at the hospital longer than expected.
While at the hospital, she comes up with a plan to get her parents back together and falls in love with her nurse, Robin (Christoph Letkowski), who is just recovering from his own break up with another nurse at the same hospital. From there, the film attempts to explain the root of Helen’s unconventional behavior.
Needless to say, this movie is not for everyone. At Sundance, Wnendt explained his intention was not to “make the most gruesome, most shocking film there ever was.”
He also explained, “the film begins like a big bunch of flowers—really very colorful—and kind of lures you into the film, so you’re not scared off right away.”
After viewing this film, I realized that despite its crass nature, it’s hard to dislike. I thoroughly enjoyed every blood spurt, poop smear and semen stain that drove the plot forward.
As columnist for New York Post, Sara Stewart thoughtfully explains, “the cheerful Helen is an eternal optimist at heart, and her extremist philosophy is one of the baddest and boldest rallying cries for female body acceptance I’ve seen on film.”
The film is a gentle reminder that films can be kinky without involving dominance/submissions, whips, chains or handcuffs. Wetlands will take you for a wonderful, raunchy, kinky ride that will leave you saying, “what did I just watch?”