Synopsis: An unapologetically sexy and subversive comedy based on the best-selling novel by Charlotte Roche. When a bizarre shaving accident lands rebellious teen Helen (Carla Juri) in the hospital, she develops an unlikely bond with her male nurse (Christoph Letkowski) who she seduces with stories of her sexual adventures while using her illness to try and reunite her divorced parents. Both shocking and hysterically funny, Wetlands is a unique roller coaster of erotic thrills.
eyelights: Carla Juri. its mixture of gross-out humour and frank sexuality.
eyesores: its lack of real plot. its downbeat ending.
“I often mix up reality, lies and dreams.”
I’d heard about ‘Feuchtgebiete’ many years ago, and I remember being intrigued by its tagline of “the most wtf, nsfw movie”. Then I started to read online comments and they were basically in two camps: those who thought it was hilariously filthy, and those who simply thought of it as filth.
Well, naturally it made me even more curious.
Fast forward to a few years later and I’ve finally seen it. And, seriously, I can see why it’s so polarizing: ‘Feuchtgebiete’ talks about and shows one teen’s experiments with her sexuality in the most candid and graphic fashion possible – short of showing genitals and penetration.
Interestingly, it’s based on a semi-autobiographical novel by Charlotte Roche which was equally divisive: Some people consider it an erotic novel while others consider it to be pornographic. It only seems fitting, then, that its companion piece was a target of critics for the same reasons.
The story revolves around 18-year-old Helen’s misadventure shaving herself: one morning, going through her daily routine, she unfortunately nicks her anus and finds herself in the hospital to treat that and her long-term hemorrhoids. While she’s there, she befriends a male nurse called Robin.
Most of the picture revolves around Helen going back in time to explain her philosophy about sex, personal hygiene, relationships and friendships, with the candor of a scientist looking through her microscope. She also discusses the dysfunction in her family at length and her hopes for them.
Essentially, ‘Feuchtgebiete’ is a series of anecdotes about Helen’s life. There isn’t much plot aside for her attempts to reunite her parents by having them visit her at the hospital at the same time – and even that is secondary to all the gross-out behaviour that she shares with us throughout.
Helen has been raised by a neurotic, über-religious mother who taught her that toilets were dirty, that vaginas were easy to infect, and that she shouldn’t trust anyone (including parents). So, naturally, Helen counters what she was told by purposely smearing herself on filthy toilet seats.
She is very un-selfconscious about her body and even revels in its scent, telling us that she purposely doesn’t wash her privates so that her natural odor will attract partners. She believes that an obsession with cleanliness detracts from this ability and regularly proves her theory right.
What I like about Helen is that she’s so confident and has very few -if any- body issues. Granted, she pushes the boundaries in ways that many will find revolting (sometimes even myself), but I appreciate that she isn’t as full of hang-ups as most of us are in this overly-paranoid society.
She’s also extremely sex-positive and considers sex just a natural part of self-expression; if she is turned on, she sees no reason not to experience sex. She’s intrigued enough to use all the vegetables in the fridge and take notes (then returning them where they belong!) or make use of the shower head.
She also explained that, for her 18th birthday, she treated herself to an experience at a local brothel. Her attitude is that fathers bring their sons, but no one is doing that for her, so she might as well do it herself. She proceeded to have have a lesbian experience with one of the girls there.
Pretty bold – not having a lesbian experience, but owning and taking charge of her sexuality like that.
Much of it is to get a rise out of the audience, but there was one scene that was actually really sexy. I’m not into shaving, but at one point she recounts being offered a shave by a coworker. Intrigued, she went to his place, where he proceeded to carefully, meticulously, shave her whole body.
And that’s all (he felt she was too young for sex, even though she was rather turned on). It looked like such a lovely, sensual experience, in low lighting, under expert hands, that I thought it was rather sexy. It very much made me think that I would like to try that with someone sometime.
Helen is a rebellious figure, not just with respect to her parents, but to societal norms in general: for instance, she teaches her best friend about homemade tampons (and even swaps with her as part of a blood pact). She also claims to having been sterilized so that she wouldn’t have children.
Whether this is true or not is hard to say: At one point she admits that she something blurs the lines between reality and her wishful thinking. And at no point are we given any clear indication of which is which and where the lines blur – and, to make matters worse, she only tells us well into the film.
So you almost have to watch it again with that in mind.
Helen is incarnated in the picture by Carla Juri, who has the impish quality of Meg Ryan if she were crossed with Ally Sheedy in ‘The Breakfast Club‘. Her Helen is a skatergirl with has a punk edge, covered in light bruises. Carla is so naturally believable it’s a wonder why she wasn’t acclaimed more.
Unfortunately, for me the picture overstays its welcome at approximately the one-hour mark. I was having a terrific ol’ time until then, but its lack of real plot and character development became tedious to me. It didn’t help that the finale was a bit downbeat and the wrap-up felt a bit rushed.
Still, all told, ‘Feuchtgebiete’ was extremely entertaining in parts, and it was riotous in others – if one enjoys shock humour. Seriously, anyone who found the pie scene in ‘American Pie’ tasteless need not apply, as this is such a ribald tale that it will likely offend in multiple ways.
So approach with caution. But, if you do choose to, enjoy!
Date of viewing: May 20, 2016