(directed by David Wnendt, 2013)
**** (out of 5)
> I loved this film! No. Wait. I hated this film! It was excruciating to watch. No. Wait. It was crazy fun! It’s… complicated.
. Of the 5,000+ films I’ve seen in my life, WETLANDS was, by some measure, the single most vulgar movie I have ever seen. (It makes PINK FLAMINGOS look like a Disney film!) That’s saying something. And while I generally do not enjoy vulgarity as entertainment, this was a damn entertaining film! The sheer audacity of the narrative and dialogue is a visceral thing to behold. This is a sexually and scatalogically graphic film taken from a biographical book that was a notorious sensation upon its release in Germany, in 2009. In seeing the film version, this is no great wonder.
. We are introduced to a strange and very perverse young girl named Helen, who takes personal delight in her extremely bad feminine hygiene… No, I am not kidding. This is the mainspring of the film. Are you wondering why you should continue reading this review? Now you know what it was like for me to continually wonder why I was watching this film, as again and again it would saddle right up to the edge of complete tastelessness, and then gleefully plunge over! To call most of this film “gross” would be a dramatic understatement. “Disgusting” is a more fitting adjective. Packed with crude references to the penis, the vagina, the rectum, menstrual flows, and unprotected sex, WETLANDS is characterized by severely self-destructive behavior that just makes you cringe. I all but involuntarily averted my eyes several times, when the behavior being depicted was so perverse, it was not something I cared to watch. (Unfortunately, I could not pretend I didn’t know what was going on. It was too late for that- and there was always the graphic soundtrack to remind me!) WETLANDS forced me confront the prude within me, that was so uncomfortable with so much of this film, which was altogether so much fun!
. But there is no subterfuge here, we know what we are in for within the first five minutes, as we meet our rebellious teenage heroine and she cheerfully divulges the horror of having hemorrhoids. Entering what looks to be the same filthy bathroom used so memorably in TRAINSPOTTING, Helen savors the repulsive disgustingness of the unimaginably filthy public toilet she stops in to apply medication to her bottom. The camera zooms in to some questionable bodily fluid on the toilet seat, zooming in to the pubic hair embedded into it and continuing to miniaturize until we are surrounded by the horrible microscopic entities living within it- who lash out at us as we cruise by, in an attempt to devour us! It is easily one of the most memorable title sequences I have ever seen in a lifetime of film viewing.
. Following her carnal impulses, Helen attempts to shave herself down behind, with catastrophic results. “No! Stop!” you scream! “Enough! Tell no more!” Don’t worry: I’ll spare you that… pleasure? But I will tell you that director David Wnendt’s vision here is strikingly original. Every scene is shot with verve and energy and bursting with style and color. The acting is good, the editing- crisp, the camera, kinetic and the soundtrack rocks. The main actress (Carla Juri) delivers one of the most fearless screen performances I can remember seeing, managing to be both adorable and repulsive at the same time- as does this film.
. It’s fascinating. Horrible! Unpleasant. Delightful! Clever. Banal! One thing WETLANDS is not- is boring. SEE IT! AVOID IT! I am awash with cognitive dissonance!
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