“Wetlands” movie review: Exploring secretions and inner selves

If you’re looking for light entertainment, don’t go to see “Wetlands.” If you’re ready for a serious gut-wrenching outlook-changing German-made art experience, go ahead.

In the first scene, I thought I was going to see some light comedy with “wink wink” sexual references. When the lovely young skateboarding woman started exhibiting her hemorrhoids, I decided it was shock schlock. Pornography was another suspected category as “Helen” nosedived into her sexual escapades. After much more, I decided the most probable category was psychiatric soul-searching on the individual level with, possibly, some universal insights. It was funny, intriguing, disgusting, and scary.

Directed by David Wnendt, and clocking in at 109 minutes, “Wetlands” would make John Waters blush. Waters gloried in shock and nasty humor through films such as “Pink Flamingos” and the great scratch-and-sniff epic, “Polyester.” Helen, portrayed as 16-18 years old and still living at home, is nastier than any film character I’ve seen.

I suspected that “Wetlands” had been a novel. Novels usually get away with more than film, because they aren’t as visually hard-hitting. I found that “Wetlands” was a 2008 novel by Charlotte Roche (“Feuchtgebiete” in the original German). Director Wnendt adapted it for the movie without flinching at showing what had only been described.

For really serious film-goers, I recommend “Wetlands.” One couldn’t ask for better film making. Carla Juri, as Helen, smacked me in the face with every high-pitched horrible emotion she goes through. While revealing one of the least redeemable characters ever portrayed, she still beguiles the audience! As a dauntless explorer of smelly body secretions and rudimentary sexual experiences, she might even be admired.

The scary part, for me, was when I realized that the musical score fit the film so well. If popular music can say the same things about alienation and self-loathing that the movie was saying, then was I watching a movie about a tormented middle-class German woman-child, or was I watching something with universal themes that applied, perhaps, to a significant swath of a generation of young people who can’t bear their lives any longer and, so far, see no hope of effecting change?

It made me shudder.


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