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Arts & Culture

'Wetlands' Heroine Rejects Personal Hygiene As Her Form Of Rebellion

Carla Juri and the filthy toilet in the German coming-of-age film, "Wetlands."
Strand Releasing
Carla Juri and the filthy toilet in the German coming-of-age film, "Wetlands."

German Coming Of Age Film Opens At Digital Gym Cinema

Film Review: 'Wetlands'
KPBS film critic Beth Accomando reviews the German coming-of-age film "Wetlands."

ANCHOR INTRO: Coming of age stories usually focus on male characters. But KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando says Germany’s Wetlands, opening at the Digital Gym Cinema this weekend, gives us a rebellious young woman as the center. Wetlands opens with an animated journey into a filthy public toilet where fanged and tentacled germs and bacteria eagerly await our young heroine’s naked behind. As the audience pulls back in a collected “Eeeew!” Helen eagerly embraces the health risks. Rejecting personal hygiene is her form of rebellion. For three-quarters of this outrageous coming-of-age film, Helen serves up a fresh female protagonist who smashes stereotypes and expectations. But like so many unconventional female characters, the film ends by setting her off on a more ordinary path involving better hygiene and maybe even marriage. The film’s worth seeing for Carla Juri’s audacious performance but maybe leave as the first signs of normalcy creep into her wild life. Beth Accomando, KPBS News.

Companion Viewing

"She's Gotta Have It" (1986)

"Warm Water Under a Red Bridge" (2001)

"Blue is the Warmest Color" (2013)

Coming of age stories usually focus on male characters. Germany’s "Wetlands" (opening Jan. 16 at the Digital Gym Cinema) gives us a rebellious young woman as the center.

Think the toilet in "Trainspotting" was bad, think again.

"Wetlands" opens with an animated journey into a filthy public toilet where fanged and tentacled germs and bacteria eagerly await our young heroine’s naked behind. As the audience pulls back in a collected “Eeeew!” Helen (Carla Juri) eagerly embraces the health risks. She doesn't just sit on the toilet seat but gleefully wipes the rims with her butt as she thinks how offensive this would be to her mother.

Rejecting personal hygiene is her personal form of rebellion. It also extends to a lot of experimentation with not just germs and bacteria, but bodily fluids, sexual partners and just sex in general.

Based on Charlotte Roche’s novel, "Wetlands" serves up an exuberant exploration of one woman's personal journey. And for three-quarters of this outrageous coming-of-age film, director David Wnendt keeps the energy levels and rebellion high.

Helen serves up a fresh female protagonist who smashes stereotypes and expectations. But like so many unconventional female characters, the film ends by setting her off on a more ordinary path involving better hygiene and maybe even marriage or at least monogamy with a cute guy.

The feeling at the end of the film is akin to how I often felt at the end of a John Hughes movies: angry disappointment. In Hughes' "Breakfast Club" and "Pretty in Pink," the misfit female characters (Ally Sheedy and Annie Potts, respectively) get to challenge social expectations in their clothing, attitudes, and manner of speaking but both embrace conventionality on all three fronts by the final fade out. It was so infuriating.

"Wetlands" doesn't cop out quite as badly but it still suggests that Helen's attitudes are just a phase, that the experimentation is dangerous, and that it somehow springs from self-hate and must lead to self mutilation of sorts. So, while there's much to applaud, there's also an annoying need to set her on a safer, more acceptable course at the end.

"Wetland" (in German with English subtitles and is unrated) is worth seeing for Carla Juri’s audacious performance but maybe leave as the first signs of normalcy creep into her wild life.