Author’s Note: The mature nature of what is about to follow calls for a warning to be put in place. This review will contain foul language, and words not used in polite conversation. If you prefer to remain sheltered, ignorant, or just don’t much care for the vulgar, move on now. Otherwise, proceed with caution and enjoy my writings on one of the most hilarious films I have ever seen.
Meet Wetlands‘ Helen (Carla Juri). She is in her post-teen years, still lives at home, is quite pretty with her tomboy haircut that is juxtaposed with her liking for very short shirts. She is a tiny bit insecure, and extremely precocious; exhibiting a child-like sense in her very much young adult body. Helen is also extremely vulgar in everything that she does. Obsessed with sex, sexuality, and pushing the boundaries of appropriateness there is no end to what Helen will do. Or what those around her will be compelled to do by her influence. Helen is, in a word, amazing. Solely for the fact that she exhibits everything that is wrong for a girl of her age, and you instantly fall in love with her because of this fact.
Director David Wnendt, who co-wrote the screenplay with Claus Falkenberg, displays with Wetlands an urgency to do away with the prohibited. Credit must also be given to Charlotte Roche who wrote the adapted novel. The bourgeoisie would faint during the first full scene of Wetlands when Helen describes how she has become a “living pussy hygiene experiment,” and then proceeds to sit on one of the dirtiest and most disgusting public toilets ever shown on screen (and perhaps that a viewer has ever witnessed in real life–one would hope.) The one lone pubic hair engulfed in a mysterious substance that lies on the toilet seat edge is magnified by an extreme close-up, and the feeling of your stomach turning as well at the thought that Helen is going to sit down. The horror! But she does, and the gross displays of perverse actions do not end there. They merely multiply into an epic war of ‘how can we shock the viewer more.’ This shock could have been done in a variety of ways, but none more effective than with a pretty young girl and by setting the scene for an off-beat coming-of-age story.
The use of voiceover here is imperative, as Helen is a lone wanderer with her skateboard. Coming in contact with a boy only brings you to learning the shocking idea Helen has for how her vagina should smell in order to attract men. She is not against using her finger to test it out on multiple occasions. Helen sounds crass, obviously, and perhaps a tad repulsive. It is completely understandable. What one must realize is that the tone of Wetlands is consistently kept light, nearly playful, in the execution. Extreme close-ups, montages, catchy pop music, and Helen’s undeniably infectious smile keep you laughing hysterically as she delves deeper into displaying just how indecent she can become with each passing minute.
Vegetables, especially carrots, will never be viewed the same after witnessing Helen take a bath with them–and then return them to the refrigerator.
It stands to mention that at this point in the film we are aware that Helen also suffers from hemorrhoids. There go the bourgeoisie again with their mouths hanging open in shock. No one speaks about hemorrhoids. Wetlands does, and it is a major plot point as to what lands Helen into the hospital.
Prepare for yet another taboo phrase…anal fissure. Blame the necessity of women to have to shave their nether regions, and not just around the bikini line. In Helen’s case it was caused by a sexy date with an older gentlemen who wanted to shave her–and she just could not stop after that. A wrong turn with a razor and Helen is in major trouble, as she’s bleeding from her anus. Socialized medicine to the rescue as she lands in the hospital with a doctor that borders on the inappropriate–a nod to more obscure cinematic creations wherein German doctors were always shown as slightly maniacal. A huge thank you to Wnendt and Falkenberg for bringing back those precious memories.
Surgery ensues, and a handsome nurse becomes Helen’s play toy while in hospital for her “condition.” One simple bowel movement will get her released, but where is the fun in that for a girl like Helen?
The fun is in her recollections. Helen’s hospital stay results in a series of flashbacks showcasing her life; the good and the bad. It is also where she concocts a master plan to reunite her divorced parents. The reasoning as to why they should be together is inconceivable, as the viewer knows they should be apart, but to Helen there is a consistent delusion that they should reunite. Helen romanticizes the idea, while remaining a Saint to her father and wicked to her mother–it all makes sense as time moves on. The heart of the vulgar story takes hold here, and the honesty of a child put apart by her parents separation, and haunted by memories that she could not understand as a child find focus. All wrapped up in the hilarity of experiencing Helen’s life of breaking taboos and lack of inhibition is a little girl trapped. It is through the flashbacks that the seriousness of her past comes to light, and the undeniable need for her to accept the truth that she has repressed.
Wetlands is not just a comedy centered around a girl who has no problem sharing a used tampon with her best friend, or indulging in an all-day binge on narcotics. The humor is a result of the execution, and a method in which to delve deeper into the mind of this oddity of a girl who does not appear to fit in, nor should she ever. Wetlands may be considered wholly inappropriate for most viewers, but it is still a work of pure genius by all involved. One must only accept that the acceptable will simply just not do any longer and embrace all that Wetlands has to offer on the superficial shock surface and buried deep within its emotional depths.