The insane German import Wetlands is singular, gross, nauseating, highly sexual, strange, lovely, smart, insane, icky, depraved, uber-graphic, and sort of monumental. It’s never, ever going to be remade for American audiences and it’s likely to appeal strictly to fans of “cinema-as-art.” I’ve never seen anything remotely like it. You get to see a POV shot from that of an STD-infected pubic hair, a woman uses a variety of vegetables as sexual pleasure devices, and the camera lovingly details a shaving accident that, let’s just say, will pucker up a certain part of your derriere. And that’s all in the first act! Directed with energy and snap by rising star David Wnendt with a constant attitude of “I’ve Got Something To Prove,” Wetlands, at times, feels like a hybrid of Enter the Void and Blue is the Warmest Color with a dash of sweetness from a Farrelly Bros. enterprise. Carla Juri gives an absolutely fearless, wholly committed performance as a young woman named Helen with any number of unique sexual and bodily fetishes. I can’t think of one major American actress who would ever dare take on the challenge of this role. Known in some circles as “the anal fissure movie,” Wetlands will prove to be an endurance test for many viewers, offering wildly graphic sights you’ll never be able to un-see.
After the previously mentioned shaving accident, Helen winds up in the hospital and falls in love with a male nurse, but this being the type of movie that it is, their meet-cute is over discussions of bloody anal injuries and the benefits of frequent oral sex. After her surgery, Helen fakes the inability to pass her bowels, in an effort to remain in the hospital so that she can win the heart of the nurse she’s falling in love with. So it’s the classic girl meets boy story, filled with the requisite amount of heart and honesty that makes you care for the characters, but ups the gross-out elements way past what Apatow and Rogen could ever dream of creating. This is outlaw cinema to be sure, replete with constant full frontal female nudity, extraordinarily graphic sexual behavior, and a general air of chuck-it-all-unpredictability that is bracing to behold and keeps you on edge. And while there is a rather sweet and simple story that gets told, many viewers will be too caught up in the moment to make heads or tails of whether or not Wetlands has something interesting or valid to say. I think it does. It’s smart, it’s honest, it’s very mature despite the various idiocies, and at its heart, this is a film about acceptance, love, and about how one woman, no matter how different or odd her behavior may seem, is living the life that she wants to live, bloody orifices or not. Not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach, Wetlands is a romantic comedy that defies general description. In short, see it with the family!
Review by Nick Clement