Film

Marwencol: A Man, His Brain, World War II, and a Porno

Marwencol: A Man, His Brain, World War II, and a Porno

Mark Hogancamp looks about as normal as can be. He's got a bulbous nose and a bland physique, and he mutters a lot when he speaks. You would never guess to look at him that less than a decade ago he was the victim of a brutal beating that put him into a coma and wiped his memory clean. Or that when he finally came to—after he relearned how to walk and talk and feed himself—he suddenly felt compelled to build a fictional World War II–era Belgian town named Marwencol in his backyard and populate it with Barbie and G.I. Joe dolls. Or that he would pattern the personalities of those dolls on his friends and neighbors and tell elaborate stories about his adventures in the town of Marwencol, taking photos every step of the way. But as Marwencol tells Hogancamp's story, you begin to realize that his fantasy town is probably the most normal thing about him.

Though this documentary is less than 90 minutes long, director Jeff Malmberg takes his time unspooling Hogancamp's story. It's a canny move. He stops to marvel at the random oddities of brain injury (before the accident, Hogancamp was an alcoholic; he hasn't touched a drop since). He investigates the stories behind certain dolls in Marwencol and spends the time to make Hogancamp feel comfortable enough around the cameras to give a series of revealing interviews. Hogancamp is a fascinating character, and a large part of his charm comes from his innocence, as when he describes his dolls with unabashed pride or laments the loss of his "best porno" tape in a malfunctioning VCR. The questions Marwencol asks—about art, about irony, about being a good person or just being a person at all—are heady. Its answers are delightful and charming and true. This is far and away one of the best films of the year. recommended

This article has been updated since its original publication.

 

Comments (3) RSS

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1
you mean, mark hogancamp?
Posted by dr_meatbox on November 29, 2010 at 3:55 PM · Report this
2
The dude in the film is actually *Mark* Hogancamp. You might be confusing him with Paul Hogancamp "Crocodile Dunbar".
Posted by dr_meatbox on November 29, 2010 at 3:59 PM · Report this
Megan Seling 3
We've fixed it. Thanks!
Posted by Megan Seling on November 30, 2010 at 12:06 PM · Report this

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