No Orifice Unexplored
“Wetlands” is the story of Helen (Carla Juri) an eccentric eighteen-year-old. She narrates the story of her life, including stories about her preferred sexual practices that involve vegetables, her attitude towards hygiene, drugs, her best friend Corinna and her challenging childhood. The frame story takes place in a hospital where she is treated because of an anal fissure. During her stay she plans to reunite her divorced parents and falls in love with the male nurse Robin. Director David Wnendt and Juri leave no bodily orifice unexplored in this very smart film. Wnendt directed this in the style of MTV music videos and the film lets us know with the titles basically what it is going to be about. We first see the titles against the background of computer-animated renderings of toilet-seat bacteria. Then Helen’s first-person narration takes over for an extended discussion of vaginal hygiene (one of the film’s running themes), both her mother’s obsession with it and her own more laissez-faire attitude. In lieu of perfume, she prefers to dab a little “pussy mucus” on her neck to attract the attentions of the opposite sex — a quite literal “eau de toilette.”
Indeed, there’s little that enters, exits or grows upon Helen’s body that doesn’t fascinate the budding young woman, including the bothersome hemorrhoids and Helen’s finger applying anti-itch cream to the affected area. If this film does nothing else, it can claim to showing a few images we’ve never seen on a movie screen (at least, not since high-school sex/education health class).
When we are not looking at Helen’s body, we meet her divorced parents (Meret Becker and Axel Milberg), her introverted younger brother Toni, and BFF Corinna (Marlen Kruse), all drawn as broad caricatures. Then, a bout halfway through the film, an accidental slip of the razor lands Helen in the emergency room with her bleeding behind. It is also here that the movie slows down. Helen comes in and out of consciousness in her hospital bed, recalling various real and imagined traumas and other formative experiences from her past. Chief among them: the divorce of her parents, whom she imagines she can “parent trap” into a reunion if she prolongs her hospital stay (which, in keeping with the general spirit of things, hinges on Helen’s ability — or lack thereof — to deliver a post-surgical bowel movement). Now I know all of this sounds strange and that is because it is strange.
This is certainly not the kind of movie that you would got to see with your mother. This has to be one of the most outlandish and grossest movies ever made and then shown to the public yet even with all the bodily fluids and muck, there is a surprisingly heartwarming story here and credit goes to an amazing performance by Carla Juri. While in her hospital bed, we learn more about Helen, what makes her tick, and how she ended up the way she did. We discover Helen is hiding some dark secrets, and will need to confront them in order to achieve any type of normalcy.
We are always aware that this is a movie that tests limits with scene after scene of nauseating grossness. But there is a rich familial drama within “Wetlands”. As the story moves forward we see the complexities of Helen and her family and how she developed into the woman she is, and why she has such idiosyncratic behavior.