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'Wetlands' review: Graphic and tender German film

Why should it only be the boys in movies who get to do the gross-out stuff? Actually, "Wetlands" director David Wnendt is a boy, as is his co-screenwriter, Claus Falkenberg, but their source is the novel by Charlotte Roche, a former TV news presenter in Britain whose book is about hygiene, femininity and body fluids and has been described as everything from politically liberating to pornographic. Judging by this movie, it's all of the above.

It's difficult to know how much of "Wetlands" one can divulge in a family newspaper before the page bursts into flames: We meet Helen (Carla Juri) in a squalid public restroom, her finger laden with hemorrhoid cream, which is on its way to its destination when the film erupts in a vision of gyrating germs -- which certainly alters the mood, something "Wetlands" does consistently, relieving the graphic atmosphere with comedy and treating Helen not so much as fetishistic or strange, but as innocent, even angelic. She wants to reunite her mother and father, whom we meet when Helen's attempt to shave a body part lands her in the hospital.

As another critic has observed, this is all far less offensive to watch than to write about. Fighting off the puns also takes strenuous effort.

"Wetlands" doesn't quite hold together the way it might have; Juri is marvelous, and her Helen is more an object of wonder than disgust, but the attempt by Wnendt to tidily conclude the film misfires wildly. At the same time, "Wetlands" explores its particular terrain with wide-eyed wonder. Even tenderness.

PLOT A young woman is in thrall to her own body, its functions and dysfunctions, and wants her parents to get back together


CAST Carla Juri, Meret Becker, Axel Milberg


BOTTOM LINE Graphic, occasionally disgusting but sweet-natured and liberated (In German with English subtitles)

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