For all the scandal that Charlotte Roche has rained down upon Germany with her first book Feuchtgebiete (about a sexually rebellious girl obsessed with body fluids – ALL body fluids) followed by a novel on an seriously disturbed adult dealing with the most brutal of tragedies, one would think that the studios would steer clear. Or maybe they smelled the cash and did just the opposite. That definitely seems to be the case with Schoßgebete.
While the film adaptation of Roche's first novel playfully portrayed the rebellious nature of young female sexuality at its limits, Schoßgebete's attempt to portray the nuances and horrors of middle-class mental instability have segued seamlessly into Hallmark Card sentiment for bourgeois housewives straight out of a stain-remover ad. The stain removing woman is Elizabeth Kiehl, a person so intensely neurotic about every detail of her life – whether it's focusing on a crack in the ceiling, keeping her non-failing marriage together at all costs or constant meditations on suicide – that the reader is encouraged to step back as far as possible whilst remaining fascinated by Kiehl's obsessions.
Following the woman through episodes of daily life that involve fucking her husband, visiting her therapist and discovering she has worms, the reader is slowly clued in to the fact that she's experienced a tragedy so profound that the shell she's created to protect herself from future tragedy has resulted in this special form of mania. So much for the novel. The film, however, insists on slamming the tragedy down on us within 10 minutes while simultaneously portraying Elizabeth as a caring mother with a few minor issues. Switching back and forth from present day to sepia-hued flashbacks of the tragedy constantly overdubbed with Lilith Fair bland rock, we're never given a second for the gravity of her situation to sink in. It's simply there and we're supposed to care but we don't. The director obviously didn't.
More's the pity – because lead actors Lavinia Wilson and Jürgen Vogel would undoubtedly have done better with better material and direction. Feuchtgebiete is sending out shockwaves in America at this very moment, resurrecting old stereotypes of the grossly extreme German. But the country can rest easy: Schoßgebete will prove the exact opposite.
Schoßgebete | Directed by Sönke Wortmann (Germany 2014) with Lavinia Wilson, Jürgen Vogel. Starts September 18