14 April 2011

Documentary: Marwencol

Marwencol (2010) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1391092/

Documentary of Mark Hogancamp and the 1/6 scale fictional WWII town he built named Marwencol.

Back in April 2000 Mark was attacked outside a bar by 5 guys that beat him so badly the brain damage he suffered put him in a coma for nine days. When he emerged he'd lost memory of almost everything in his life prior to his waking up. His rehabilitation stopped after his medical coverage was exhausted, so he started his own therapy by collecting and painting 1/6 scale figures and using them to populate a WWII-era town he calls Marwencol. 
The town is more than a playset - reality and the reality he makes in Marwencol overlap in many ways. He has a tenuous separation of the two, he's aware they are two different worlds, but sometimes that separation blurs. He has to build his own memories, he builds them through Marwencol. He works out his emotional issues as he poses Marwencol's population and takes pictures, documenting all the events that happen in Marwencol. The doll population includes a doll representing himself, it has fictional  occupants, and dolls representing significant people in his real life including his mother, coworkers, a neighbor lady he fell in love with, and even the attackers that destroyed his memories.  As it's a WWII-era town, his attackers are represented by the Nazi SS that came to Marwencol and beat and tortured the "Mark" doll living in Marwencol. The stories are many, documented in thousands of photos, and he knows all of them intimately.

It's an unflinching yet touching insight into Mark's life and process of healing. It also describes the discovery of Mark and his town by a local photographer that eventually led to a show at an art gallery of some of Mark's photos and a building from Marwencol. It documents Mark's turmoil over whether or not he should attend the showing, what he should wear, and how much of his inner self can he expose to the public.  He seems a little mystified that others consider what he does is "art". Which is kind of the beauty of the whole thing.

I'm a fan of This American Life, both the weekly PRI show and the brief Showtime series. The human condition in general is interesting to me.  I also enjoy watching good documentaries on various subjects. I heard some buzz about this film over the past year and decided to give it a viewing.  Glad I did. 

If you enjoy documentaries this is a very good one to see if you have the opportunity. It is filmed well, edited together well, tells Mark's story as he remembers it before and after the beating, and puts you as the viewer in a place to understand Mark's relationship with Marwencol.

And I'll tell you what - right near the end of the film I was blown away when I saw what the 1/6 scale "Mark" doll living in Marwencol does to process his beating at the hands of the SS.

Check out the official site: http://www.marwencol.com/
Learn a little more about the film, see some of Mark's photos, even watch a trailer for the documentary.

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