18 year old Helen (Carla Juri) is eccentric, to say the least. She considers bodily hygiene to be a con, borrows the vegetables from her family’s fridge so she can rate their performance as masturbatory aids, and has a spectacular talent for saying the least appropriate thing at any given time. Her life is spent making things difficult for her divorced parents, tormenting her (much) younger brother, growing avocados, and hanging out (getting high, and into trouble) with her best (and only) friend Corinna (Marlen Kruse).
Helen’s world is turned upside down (or perhaps inside out – since it’s already upside down from most perspectives) when she cuts herself in an anal shaving accident and winds up in hospital. Being Helen, she immediately forms a plan to use the situation get her parents back together, and develops designs on a handsome male nurse called Robin (Christoph Letkowski).
Like Helen, Wetlands is fairly confronting on the surface. Within the first 5 minutes we’ve had a tour through an astoundingly filthy public toilet accompanied by Helen’s cheerful discussion of her hemorrhoids, her sex life, and her “pussy health experiments”. However (again like Helen) this confronting exterior is a front for a more complex truth. As the film goes on, Helen’s various quirks and transgressions begin to be revealed as open-hearted (and reasonably rational) responses to an adult world that is deceitful and sometimes physically dangerous. Similarly, though it appears on the surface to be a sort of gross-out polemic, Wetlands slowly reveals itself to be at heart a coming of age story with elements of romantic comedy.
The film is based on the book of the same name by Charlotte Roche, who created Helen as a semi-autobiographical character. As a result, it’s not entirely surprising that Helen and her various unusual views should be portrayed sympathetically, but the degree to which this works on screen is largely down to the charm and daring of Carla Juri in the central role, and deft direction by David Wnendt. Together, they manage the tricky feat of making Helen’s perspective the central point of view in the film, and allowing the various (often uncomfortable) background details of her life to inform the person she is without explaining her into a mere bundle of pathological responses glued together and waiting to be “fixed” by the right man.
If Wetlands has a weakness, it’s that the fundamental story becomes fairly basic (particularly toward the end) and Helen’s motivations are actually pretty conventional. This means that while the gross-out details will put off the easily-offended, connoisseurs of the weird will find that it all becomes a bit tidy for them. That said, the individual details are idiosyncratic enough, and Helen is likeable enough that this only rarely becomes distracting.
Recommended (if my descriptions haven’t already put you off).
- Carla & Charlotte – A 1 minute short about the relationship between Carla Juri and Charlotte Roche.
- Blood Sisters – A 1 minute short about the relationship between Carla Juri and Marlen Kruse.
- Dare – A 1 minute short about Carla Juri’s preparations for the role of Helen.
- The Making of Wetlands.
- Deleted Scenes
- Land In Sight music video
- Theatrical Trailer
“Madman Propaganda” – trailers
Available on R4 DVD from Madman Entertainment.