Wetlands Is A Filthy And Touching Story About A Girl And Her Hemorrhoids.
Director: David Wnendt.
Writers: David Wnendt, Claus Falkenberg (screenplay); Charlotte Roche (novel).
Cast: Carla Juri.
Where it's playing: Angelika Film Center (Dallas).
Wetlands is the most fucked up movie I've seen in a long time.
It's based on the German novel of the same name (which translates to “damp areas on a woman's genitals”). I haven't read it, but after seeing the film, I can't imagine what other bits of depravity were left out. In fact, I don't want to know. But I really want you to understand something: Despite some really vile scenes, Wetlands is a marvelous achievement in filmmaking. There's no denying it's one of a kind.
That said, it still took me a couple of viewings to fully appreciate it. Let me tell you about the first time I attempted to watch it. It premiered early this year at the Sundance Film Festival, where there was a lot of jawing about about the movie regarding its explicit content throughout. So of course, I was curious. I've seen a lot of mainstream movies with unsimulated sex (and porn, y'know, for scientific purposes), gore and bizarre, weird shit, but nothing prepared me for Wetlands.
In the opening scene, the protagonist, Helen (Carla Juri, in an unforgettable breakout performance) is longboarding down a road. She heads into an underground, subway-like dirty bathroom that makes the one in Trainspotting — when Ewan McGregor takes a shit in the “nastiest toilet in Scotland” — as disgusting as that is, look like something out of a Disney movie. She’s barefoot, walks through the grotty water with God knows what floating around, and sits on a seat with a large pubic hair on it. She examines said hair and then proceeds to scoot her ass all over the likely disease-infested seat. In a voiceover, she says she has a fascination with sitting on nasty toilets because she wants to see if it will give her a yeast infection.
Now that I have your attention, here’s the rest of the plot: Helen Memel (Juri) is your average teenage girl — she loves longboarding throughout the city and talking about sex with her best friend. What makes her standout from being other average sexually-charged teenagers is her fantasies of sex. They are more twisted and perverted than anything you've ever imagined. She has no reservations and isn't afraid to talk about or try the things we only discuss behind closed doors.
Oh, and one super important thing I forgot to mention — she has hemorrhoids. She can't remember for how long, but they've been there for years. One morning while shaving her legs, she slices the itchy motherfuckers and has to go to the emergency room to get her anus, the most unhygienic place on the human body, operated on. Her hemorrhoids have now fulfilled their true destiny in becoming a real a pain in the ass.
The toilet-rubbing scene is one of the two moments in Wetlands that made me queasy. The other involves an ensemble of men ejaculating on a pizza (one of Helen's many grotty fantasies). This is when I walked out of the theater. I’m pretty desensitized when it comes to most shock, but when something as gross as this gets inside my head, I can't handle it.
Despite these graphic scenes, many of my colleagues who saw it at Sundance were expressing nothing but love for Wetlands. They all told me that if I could brave through the scuzzy scenes, I’d like the overall story of the film. I finally sat down to gave it another shot, and on closer observation, they were right. Wetlands is bizarrely beautiful. It's one of the most honest coming-of-age films of this era.
At the core of the story, it's about learning who you are. Most of the experiences Helen goes through in this film we've either joked about with our friends or have actually tried. It's not all pube-infested toilets and pizza with a side of cum.
Underneath the gross out moments, Wetlands has a lot of heart. And Breakout star Carla Juri is a joy to watch. As Helen, she brings to life the innocence of as a teenager curious about what sex is, how it works and all of the perversions that come with it. Helen is not acting out of rebellion from her parents’ divorce — she’s just genuinely infatuated with sex. Dirty, hard, demented sex. If you can stomach the grimy scenes (admittedly something a lot of people won’t be able to do), you, too will enjoy this exceptional film and it's exploration of sex.