The German film “Wetlands” revolves around Helen, who is 18, sexy, tomboyish, and very aware of her body. She has hemorrhoids and talks about them, likes to masturbate with vegetables, and has rejected her mother’s obsession with hygiene and housekeeping. After a bizarre childhood lesson from her mother that she should never trust anyone, it’s easy to see how Helen has grown to be at odds with her.
Throughout the film, this angelic and decidedly grimy girl has her fingers between her legs a lot, for pain, pleasure, and self-exploration.
If that sounds gross, that’s your problem; not hers. Actor Carla Juri does a wonderful job as a girl who is remarkably curious, unfiltered, and unashamed — everything youth should be.
Perhaps I could describe the filthy public toilet or the dreamlike childhood recollections, but those are simply distractions in a sleight-of-hand style of storytelling. This coming-of-age tale is quite forthright, but audiences are distracted from its simplicity as the film careens near the brink of decency and often plunges off the edge.
Her character — as written by director David Wnendt and Claus Falkenberg — is not a standard male fantasy of young womanhood. Her male sexual conquests seem steamrolled rather than enticed. Her sexuality with females is also a tidal wave. Though there are fewer depictions in this film, one can’t help but think Helen will have what she wants when she feels like it, with whomever she finds interesting.
Helen’s hemorrhoid saga moves into the hospital, where she’s suffered a shaving-related mishap. Bored and needy, and still remarkably driven and manipulative, she strikes up a relationship with a male nurse. One is never sure if she’s using him in a calculated fashion or just because of who she is, but she appears naturally wired to put her own interests first. She attempts to reunite her divorced parents and when they don’t play along with her carefully orchestrated plans, she is inexplicably infuriated. The mind of a teenager is often impenetrable.
So what’s the verdict? Some will be grossed-out and unable to recover, and they will miss the very real story of a young woman trying to come to terms with her oddball family, while at the same time exploring everything … including her ass. Others will be delighted by the borderline horrifying depictions and discussions of things not often discussed.
People who consider it part of their life description to partake things that upset conservatives (yes, the book-burner brigade tried to get this banned), spray in the face of etiquette, and aren’t ashamed to laugh at anal things or wonder along with the character about the power of her aroma; this is your watch.