After a vicious attack by 5 men outside of a bar, Mark Hogancamp lost his memory and had to endure intense surgery. While pieces of his past comes back, he started making a world out of 1/6th scale WWII figures where he could be anything he wants to be.
It's always an interesting change of pace to go from filmmaking documentaries, which are - truth be told - rather unimportant in the greater scale of things, to documentaries about actual misery and recovery. I have been reviewing a bunch of them lately.. okay, a few. It's always a mixed experience, but usually get to me still. "Marwencol" is just heartbreaking from the outline of it, and strange enough to be perfect for our little website.
What is "Marwencol"? The title of the movie is based upon the world that Mark Hogancamp creates. The documentary is about Mark and how he is recovering from a horrible attack. 5 guys attacked him outside of a bar, and it literally forced him to start all over with everything. He had no memories, he couldn't stand or walk. He had nothing. Eventually he started building a 1/6th model town and got dolls for it. He created a world, Marwencol (name taken from Mark, Wendy and Colleen, I believe), and used it as therapy, even though that wasn't the main intention. He creates characters for everyone he knows and actually uses the world to get his anger out. How? The world is in the middle of WWII, and it has Nazis, executions and plenty of violence. While he wanted to literally kill the people who did this to him, he took it out in his world.
The movie eventually moves on to where someone actually wants to show his world at an art gallery. At the same time, we're slowly getting to know Mark Hogancamp more and more. Who he was before, who he really wants to be, etc. It's quite bittersweet, this movie. He seems to get accepted by people, but there is always something in the background that will never leave him and his personality. It's also very interesting to slowly find out who he used to be.
It's hard to literally judge the filmmaker in a documentary, but clearly it's always about how important the subject is, how it's revealed, how it develops, what the decide to show and when. It's hard to say a filmmaker did a bad job if the subject sucked to begin with, right? Well, it can be discussed - don't make a documentary if it's not interesting. But Jeff Malmberg truly got to the source of Mark Hogancamp and Marwencol, it's really honest about the subject but it treats it with respect. We're not laughing at Mark, nor does the movie try to pity him for creating his world. It investigates the reasons and justifies it. If you have an interest in documentaries to begin with, then you should be watching this one.