Marwencol (2010)



Critic Consensus: Inspiring and fascinating, Marwencol depicts its subject with heartfelt tenderness, raising poignant questions about art and personal tragedy along the way.

Movie Info

On April 8, 2000, Mark Hogancamp was brutally attacked by five men in his hometown of Kingston, New York. The assault left the ex-navyman, carpenter, and showroom designer in a coma for nine days; he emerged with brain damage that initially made it impossible for him to walk, eat, or speak. Physical and occupational therapy helped him regain basic motor skills, but after less than a year he discovered that without insurance, he could no longer afford it. Determined "not to let those five guys … More

Rating: Unrated
Genre: Documentary, Science Fiction & Fantasy
Directed By:
In Theaters:
On DVD: Apr 12, 2011
Box Office: $0.1M
The Cinema Guild - Official Site

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Critic Reviews for Marwencol

All Critics (58) | Top Critics (21)

Simultaneously hypnotic and unnerving, it asks some rather uncomfortable questions about the nature of art and the potential and limits of self-healing.

Full Review… | December 28, 2010
Seattle Times
Top Critic

Director Jeff Malmberg sees something in Hogancamp that he wants all of us to see, an imperfect human scarred by horrific trauma who nonetheless finds a reason to live.

Full Review… | December 28, 2010
Toronto Star
Top Critic

Hogancamp's alliance with director Jeff Malmberg in this artful and poignant film marks a victory in the war against the self.

Full Review… | December 17, 2010
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Top Critic

A fine, delicately nuanced portrait of an artist compelled by mysterious forces to create something utterly unique.

Full Review… | December 10, 2010
Washington Post
Top Critic

If you have even a passing interest in outsider art, you owe it to yourself to see "Marwencol."

Full Review… | December 2, 2010
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic

Extraordinary, astonishing, revealing, unique

Full Review… | September 9, 2012
Urban Cinefile

Audience Reviews for Marwencol

"When his world was stolen, Mark Hogancamp made a world of his own."

After a vicious attacks leaves him brain-damaged and broke, Mark Hogancamp seeks recovery in "Marwencol", a 1/6th scale World War II-era town he creates in his backyard.

As with all the very best documentaries, it's what is implied rather than what is said outright. This brilliantly restrained piece chooses to give subtle information at all the right times, perfectly conveying the emotion attached to its subject matter. Previous alcoholic, bitter and angry, Mark Hogancamp was left in a coma after he received a savage beating outside a bar by five men. The resulting damage meant that he had also lost a lot of memory from the attack, losing details in his life (including his need for alcohol). Having lost his identity, Mark dealt with his traumas by constructing the titular miniature town of Marwencol, often reenacting scenes from flashes of memory, with toy dolls closely representing people in his life.

Brilliantly paced, we learn of Mark's life, anxieties, and fears, and learn of a lonely, highly intelligent individual, who just does not want any further pain in his life. Thus, retracting from life and society, to live through his doll-town stories. If the first half is a little labouring in providing information to the viewer, the second half justifies this approach no end, as we compassionately learn of Mark's personality, what makes him comfortable, and the few real loves throughout his life. As well as the reason for the attack that so affected his life.

The film is never judgmental, never dwells on its issues more than others. Scenes of Mark walking a toy jeep 160 miles on his trips to the local stores in order to wear the wheels in and appear authentic, prove to be highly endearing rather than seem odd or snigger-inducing. When Mark's constructions are later discovered as works of art, he struggles with his preparation for a New York exhibition of his constructions and photography. Yet clearly his honesty and integrity have a strong effect on the people he encounters there. What we are left with in the end is an honest portrait of a man overcoming his life's traumas. Therapy through art, in the most dignified and humble of ways.

Lorenzo von Matterhorn

Super Reviewer

More than a simple documentary about an artform, Marwencol digs deep into the psyche and troubled past of the creator, Mark Hogencamp. Beaten by five men and left brain damaged, Mark had to relearn everything about his own life all over again. Because he has little money, Mark's various physical and psychological therapies are cut off after a short amount of time. In his desperation to learn about himself, he begins developing a town called Marwencol, inhabited by Barbies, GI Joes, and various other dolls. Each doll is the "alter-ego" of someone in Mark's life, including his mother, ex-wife, and co-workers. Over time the town mirrors events in his own life, or least the way he wants his life to be. In his town he's found true love, fights Nazis, and runs a bar/cat fighting club. Through the process of putting this together, Mark is forced to face his years of alcoholism, and fetish for women's shoes, which had led to his original attack. Moving, and full of empathetic scenes, Marwencol is as close to heartbreaking as humanly possible.

Spencer S.

Super Reviewer


the VERY strange tale of a man who built a town-- a miniature town in his backyard. using dolls he plays out an elaborate fantasy of WW2 with himself as the hero. mark hogancamp suffered brain damage and amnesia after a brutal attack that left him comatose for 9 days. after relearning basic skills he returned home and began building elaborate sets, inventing scenarios and photographing them. when a local photographer stumbles on him he becomes a minor art world celebrity. the remarkable thing about his work is that 'there's no irony in it.' indeed there isn't. mark isn't capable of irony. he isn't self aware. he's living in this world day to day and i'm not at all sure if it's therapy as is claimed or just a well-developed escape from reality. anyway it's not my place to judge and i wish him all the best. this is streaming on netflix so check it out; it's fascinating

Stella Dallas

Super Reviewer

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