Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: David Wnendt
Stars: Carla Juri, Christophe Letkowski, Meret Becker, Axel Milberg, Edgar Selge, Marlen Kruse.
Just when you thought it was safe to venture back into the cinema following Lars Von Trier’s explicit and over sexed Nymphomaniac, along comes this trashy and joyously filthy German film that screened recently at the Melbourne International Film Festival. Talk about your female perversions! A fellow film reviewer called Wetlands “the best film about hemorrhoids I’ve ever seen.” But this pithy comment only scratched the surface of this German film which explores sexual perversity in Germany, and lots of bodily fluids as well.
Helen Memel (played with energy and verve in a bravura and brave performance by Carla Juri) is a skateboarding 18-year old obsessed with personal hygiene, sexual experimentation, and her anus. It is this latter obsession that leads to an unfortunate incident that sees her hospitalised for an operation. While recuperating, she flirts with her male nurse Robin (Christophe Letkowski) and clashes with her officious and humourless doctor (Edgar Selge). Helen also tries to affect a reconciliation between her divorced parents – her unstable and over controlling mother (Meret Becker) and her distant father (Axel Milberg).
Wetlands is based on the raunchy, punk-themed coming of age novel written by Charlotte Roche, a long time presenter on Viva, Germany’s equivalent of MTV and it ventures into territory that very few other films have gone before. Director David Wnendt and cowriter Claus Falkenberg bring Roche’s controversial novel to the screen with imagination. This is the second feature for Wnendt following his controversial 2012 debut Combat Girls, and his hyper-paced direction is unsympathetic and nonjudgmental.
Wnendt and his cinematographer Jakub Bejnarowicz throw everything at the audience with their in-your-face visual style that includes split screens, animation, heightened colour palette, and a throbbing punk music soundtrack. The film is edited at a frenetic pace by Andreas Wodraschke. Wnendt also gives us arguably one of the most frenetic and energetic pieces of German cinema since Run Lola Run, and the best gross out toilet scene since Trainspotting. Much of it is deliberately done for shock value, but the effect soon wears off, and the film seems to overstay its welcome by 20 minutes.
The film unfolds in non-linear fashion, while Helen’s unapologetically provocative omnipresent voice over narration leads the audience on a wild journey of sexual experimentation, drugs, family secrets and lies, and youthful exuberance. She is the typical unreliable narrator, and her story is at times over the top. A series of flashback sequences offer some insights in Helen’s troubled personality and her dysfunctional family. But despite her in your face approach to sex and bodily functions, Helen is still and engaging and interesting character, and there is a hint of vulnerability and insecurity about her. We remain with her for the length of the film. This is a breakout performance for the Swiss born Juri, who is an undeniable force of nature here with her brash, energetic and brave performance.
The scatological, uninhibited and ribald humour in Wetlands is certainly crass and in your face, and the film will certainly shock and offend the prudish and the more squeamish. Wetlands is certainly not the type of movie you’d take your maiden aunt or elderly grandmother to see!