MarwencolFeature Film |
A sensitive, but discomfiting, portrait of a damaged man trying to heal himself through his creativity.
"It gets stranger by the moment, doesn't it?" says Mark Hogancamp, the subject of Marwencol, a fascinating and moving documentary by Jeff Malmberg. And it's true. In 2000, Hogancamp was nearly beaten to death by a gang of teens. After a long rehabilitation, he still couldn't remember much of his life—as an unhappy alcoholic—before the assault. Unable to function as he used to, Hogancamp invented and built an elaborate miniature fantasy world, the WWII-era Belgian town of Marwencol, and populated it with dolls resembling his friends, acquaintances, and enemies, placing his own avatar at the heroic center of the action. Hogancamp's intimate relationship with his dolls and with the town is a bit odd, and things get odder as Malmberg strategically lets us in on other details about his subject's life. But while the filmmaker holds back some information for maximum impact, Marwencol doesn't feel exploitative. Malmberg allows Hogancamp to tell his own story, and the latter clearly takes some pleasure in his eccentricity. Marwencol is a sympathetic portrait of a lonely man trying to find his own way and inadvertently reaching others—a strange and sad tale that offers hope in the possibility of one man's redemption through art.