Movies

'Wetlands'

POSTERIOR MOTIVES: Carla Juri plays a teen who has some unusual obsessions revolving around her derriere and unorthodox hygiene practices.

Essentially benign and yet one of the grossest movies ever made, David Wnendt's Wetlands adapts a scandalous (and apparently very episodic) German semi-autobiographical coming of age novel. YA lit means a whole different thing over there, God bless them. It's a series of daydreamy anecdotes in the life of Helen (Carla Juri). She's spending some down time in the hospital; prone to the piles already, Helen gave herself a rectal injury from shaving herself too fast. After surgery, she malingers in her private hospital room. Her big aim is to pick up a shy male nurse named Robin (Christoph Letkowski). The lolling around gives her a chance to review the events of her life—the rise and fall of her friendship with her (menstrual)blood-sister Corrina (Marlen Kruse), her rejection of the antiseptic dictates of her nervous Catholic mom—and finally, the big reveal of how disturbed Helen's mother is. Helen's deepest wish is for her parents to get back together. Wanting absolute freedom for herself, she feels that her parents ought to fill their trad role, and that's evidence of a conventional strain this movie barely conceals. So is the winner-take-everything happy ending.

Juri plays Helen as a sweet-spirited, scrubby Ann-Margret-ish imp—curly haired and with chipped fingernail enamel. When nude, she looks like photographer R. Kern's streety models, complete with the little bruises everywhere. She's not too messed up to flirt—teasing Robin, she asks "Could these eyes lie?" The Kodachrome colors are garish—lurid magentas and ultraviolet nightlights in her mother's kitchen. When Helen visits a brothel (she's a customer) the interiors are so crimson it's amazing it doesn't blind the whores.

The filth level may be extremely high but it's not unprecedented. The opening, when Helen rolls down a street leading to the Filthiest Toilet in Germany, recalls Trainspotting; when she sexes the family dinner, the confessions of Alexander Portnoy come to mind. There's an echo of Lena Dunham in Helen's self-abasement. Merrill "Peaches" Nisker is on the soundtrack (they could have gone with Karen Finley's "Tales of Taboo"), as is Thee Headcoatees' "Cum in My Mouth," recorded about a quarter-century ago╔when even the provocations have a pedigree, it's hard to get excited as it is to get outraged.

Wetlands

Not rated; 105 min


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