Review: Wetlands (Wnendt, 2013) – Sundance 2014

Courtesy of the 2014 Sundance Film Festival website

Courtesy of the 2014 Sundance Film Festival website

There was quite a bit of chatter about this German film before its premiere. And no wonder, for we’d all read the synopsis. In line, in the theater before the movie began, viewers giggled in anticipation at what they were about to see. It was expected to be sexually explicit and disgusting and funny. The volunteers even carded us to make sure we were all over 18.

In that regard, the first half of the movie did not disappoint. We were treated to scene after scene of Helen, the main character played by Carla Juri, smearing body fluids everywhere–it was simultaneously shocking, disgusting, and refreshing. I found much to like in Juri’s depiction of Helen, who was bold, saucy, affectionate, joyful, and occasionally cruel. In a movie that essentially centers around one person, that person makes or breaks the film, and I think Carla Juri’s Helen made it.

If the second half of the movie doesn’t live up to the potential of its wickedly original main character, I forgive it its descent into conventionality. It is, after all, supposed to be a light-hearted film, even though it does foray into darkness at times (these forays are also a bit conventional, but, again, forgivable).

Ultimately, it’s the kind of movie you walk out of feeling upbeat and ready to take on the world with a smile.

Notes: 1) Director David Wnendt (how do you pronounce that, by the way?) retweeted my tweet about his movie. I’m finally understanding Twitter and its role as the great democratizer. 2) The movie was based off the bestselling erotic (semi-autobiographical) novel by Charlotte Roche, a German VJ and TV show host. In the U.S. we can be fairly insulated from global trends, so I didn’t realize that this book was the world’s best-selling novel in March 2008–I hadn’t even heard of it. 3) When Juri read someone’s diatribe that whoever took the role of Helen was an immoral person, she was provoked into auditioning for it. I can’t imagine another actress embodying Helen as naturally as Juri.