“As if Charlotte Roche’s eponymous novel hadn’t already attracted enough controversial reaction on its publication, David Wnendt’s adaptation of Wetlands (Feuchtgebiete) is now generating its own kind of headlines after its world premiere in Locarno’s Competition on Sunday evening,” reports Martin Blaney for Screen Daily. “Ahead of its German theatrical release by Majestic Filmverleih on August 22, Facebook, Google and YouTube have removed the film’s trailer from their platforms ‘due to sexually explicit and provocative content.'” You can watch the trailer at the film’s site, of course, though you won’t find much in it any more provocative than what’s in these embedded clips. “‘Out of consideration for our American friends, but also for all those people who sicken at very sight of their own body, we want to help protect our youth,’ the distributor declared with tongue firmly in cheek.”
So what made the book such a hot topic back in 2008? For starters, “the use of phallic vegetables; intentional lack of intimate hygiene and the pain in the behind that hemorrhoids and anal operations can be—and all that from a female perspective,” writes Boyd van Hoeij in the Hollywood Reporter. “The beauty of young writer-director David Wnendt’s eponymous film adaptation, headlined by an explosive Carla Juri, is not that all these subjects are pretty much treated as candidly as in the book but that the final result is also an accessible, stylish and ultimately even sweet film. Wetlands has cult hit written all over it.”
“Trainspotting with a dash of Run Lola Run,” suggests Screen‘s Mark Adams. “The revelation of Wetlands is the dynamic and charming performance from Swiss actress Carla Juri (who looks like a young Meg Ryan circa Top Gun) whose verve and intelligence shine through as she dominates a film that is littered with fine performances (Meret Becker as her mother is especially memorable). Helen is a bold, unconventional and complex character and it is to Juri’s credit that she manages to make her oddly tender and driven by her own sense of love and hope. Director David Wnendt (whose last film was the abrasive Combat Girls in 2012) blends magical realism with sequences aimed to shock, but keeps the tone bright and breezy despite the provocative material he layers into the film.”
Lorenzo Buccella, writing for Locarno’s site, finds that “the film has another objective, more ambitious than just goading our conformity: it also wants to bring us closer to its irresistible heroine.”
“Wetlands might just be the most visceral film of the entire festival line-up, confronting its audience with a transgressive, but not aggressive, look at the reality of human bodies,” writes Beatrice Behn in her mid-fest report from Locarno here in Keyframe. “Wnendt manages for the most part to strike a balance and to focus not only on the shocking moments of utter viscerality but also on their psychological underpinnings.”
Update, 8/16: “If we’re stuck with coming-of-age stories as a genre that storytellers must engage time and again,” writes Indiewire‘s Eric Kohn, “at least in the case of Wetlands the usual formula gets a much-needed jolt, while capably recognizing the aspects of the material that work on autopilot. The shock value only goes so far as a gimmick. Wetlands succeeds because, like Helen, it manages to sincerely embrace its taboos.”
Update, 8/18: “Juri that proves to be the winning card in the deck,” agrees Massimo Benvegnù at CineVue.
Update, 8/19: “Directed in a hyper-pop musicvideo style that suggests an early John Waters movie as remade by Michael Bay, Wetlands announces its intentions early on, with a title sequence set against computer-animated renderings of toilet-seat bacteria,” writes Variety‘s Scott Foundas. “If it did nothing else, Wetlands could lay claim to crafting a few images we’ve never seen on a movie screen (at least, not since high-school health class).” And “Wetlands might have landed with the thud of empty shock value were Helen not such an innately engaging character, or Juri so commanding in the role.”