Where do you draw the line between fantasy and reality? Between art and mental illness? Between personal and public? This may sound like any old fictional movie at the theater nowadays, but it’s equally (if not more) fascinating when subjectivity is explored in real life. My pick for “F.I.L.M. of the Week,” Jeff Malmberg’s “Marwencol,” provides no easy answers to these tough dilemmas in his study of a traumatized man with a bizarre compulsion.
Mark Hogancamp, the film’s subject, sees his life turned upside down by a debilitating attack by assailants outside a bar. After emerging from a coma, he decides to dedicate his life to giving it to others. And by others, I mean dolls.
Yes, Mark decides to build a 1/6 replica World War II-era town called Marwencol, which he designs and populates himself. He even acts as God and narrates their lives, giving them drama, conflict, and meaning. Take out the brain injury at the beginning, and you would be laughing your head off.
But that’s not what happens, and Malmberg makes sure that you take Mark very seriously. His in-depth character study that really takes the time and care to show just how passionately Mark feels about the town of Marwencol. For he from whom life was taken, this is life, and Malmberg will have us respect that.
Obviously, word gets out about Marwencol (otherwise we wouldn’t have the movie “Marwencol”), and art collectors flock to get in on the picee of the action. Then, things start to get interesting. Is it OK to masquerade someone’s personal therapy as art, opening it up to mockery and criticism? Who gets to call it art, anyways? The drama is real, and the stakes are high – Marwencol was Mark’s way of coping with the harsh realities of his existence.
Interested yet? Mull over these issues, and many more, with popcorn and “Marwencol.” It would make for an unconventional, but decidedly meaningful, movie night.