January 09, 2012


Marwencol is the story of a captivating man named Mark Hogancamp. At 38, Mark lost most of his memory after suffering brain damage from a brutal bar attack. He finds fragments of himself and his past through photographs, sketchbooks and disturbing “drunk journals” written during his years battling alcoholism. After his Medicaid-covered therapy runs out Mark finds solace and inspiration in a second world, one sixth the scale of ours. He christens it “Marwencol”, a World War II-era town in Belgium that he creates in his own backyard.

Mark creates an alter ego in a doll: a handsome soldier with bravado and chiseled plastic features, a tough-guy leather jacket, a harem of twenty seven Barbies, and a thirst for the dark stuff; coffee that is, even though he owns the best bar in town. Other dolls represent friends, co-workers and family from Mark’s own life and help to complete his lavish story-lines. Hogancamp’s attention to detail is a testament to the creativity that stills lies within him.

Director Jeff Malmberg treats his subject with care and you never get the feeling that Mark’s disability or situation is being exploited. It feels intimate, maybe sometimes uncomfortably so, like you’re just hanging out with Mark and his dolls on a Tuesday or something. You feel for him when his work is discovered by an art magazine, and later a gallery in New York. The unsolicited attention causes Mark to face the real world that he has left behind. 

It's a fascinating film, worth watching.

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