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Marwencol (2010)



Average Rating: 8.4/10
Reviews Counted: 58
Fresh: 57 | Rotten: 1

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


Average Rating: 8.3/10
Critic Reviews: 21
Fresh: 21 | Rotten: 0

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



liked it
Average Rating: 4.1/5
User Ratings: 2,091

My Rating

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

Apr 12, 2011


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All Critics (58) | Top Critics (21) | Fresh (57) | Rotten (1) | DVD (4)

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

December 28, 2010 Full Review Source: Seattle Times
Seattle Times
Top Critic IconTop 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.

December 28, 2010 Full Review Source: Toronto Star
Toronto Star
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Hogancamp's alliance with director Jeff Malmberg in this artful and poignant film marks a victory in the war against the self.

December 17, 2010 Full Review Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
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A fine, delicately nuanced portrait of an artist compelled by mysterious forces to create something utterly unique.

December 10, 2010 Full Review Source: Washington Post
Washington Post
Top Critic IconTop Critic

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

December 2, 2010 Full Review Source: San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Producer/director Jeff Malmberg tells the amazing true story with tenderness and tact.

December 2, 2010 Full Review Source: Minneapolis Star Tribune
Minneapolis Star Tribune
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Extraordinary, astonishing, revealing, unique

September 9, 2012 Full Review Source: Urban Cinefile
Urban Cinefile

Truly inspiring

September 9, 2012 Full Review Source: Urban Cinefile
Urban Cinefile

The film is never flippant, never disrespectful and always approaches Mark's hobby with eyes wide open and no agenda other than fascinated admiration.

September 8, 2012 Full Review Source: The Mercury
The Mercury

Alternate realities help us work through issues, but might keep us from confronting the world

September 30, 2011 Full Review Source: Movie Habit
Movie Habit

By allowing his emerging post-trauma experience into his pretend kingdom, the man is reconstituting his self-consciousness, reclaiming the dignity of his whole mind, recovering his soul.

August 20, 2011 Full Review Source: Cinemania

First-time director Jeff Malmberg does almost everything right in this stunningly empathetic documentary.

March 13, 2011 Full Review Source: Metro Times (Detroit, MI)
Metro Times (Detroit, MI)

Marwencol provides a deeply empathetic view of loneliness and powerful evidence of art as an outlet.

March 9, 2011 Full Review Source: Reel Times: Reflections on Cinema
Reel Times: Reflections on Cinema

Speaks to the addictiveness, the catharsis, the unpredictability, and the eternity of the creative process.

March 4, 2011 Full Review Source: Window to the Movies
Window to the Movies

A heartwrenching tale of wish fulfillment on a nearly molecular level...

March 2, 2011 Full Review Source: Orlando Weekly
Orlando Weekly

Marwencol is a mesmerizing documentary, and like Mark Hogancamp it continually surprises you. It may also be one of the best films you'll see all year.

February 10, 2011 Full Review Source:

Hogancamp didn't know he was creating art ... he was merely surviving, spinning stories for his sanity. In an era of 'look-at-me,' this type of agenda is as far away from our world as Marwencol itself.

January 18, 2011 Full Review Source: Indie Movies Online
Indie Movies Online

Cinematically raw, untidy and sometimes positively odd, but it's also revealing, fascinating, unsettling and ultimately quite touching.

January 13, 2011 Full Review Source: One Guy's Opinion
One Guy's Opinion

"Marwencol" is inspiring but also insightful because it refuses to gloss over complex, even discomfiting questions surrounding its endearing but troubled central character.

January 6, 2011 Full Review Source: Oregonian

Malmberg instead takes a gentle approach. He's patient and coaxing, and he lets Mark grow comfortable for the camera.

January 4, 2011 Full Review Source: Combustible Celluloid
Combustible Celluloid

Enthralling and deeply strange.

December 28, 2010 Full Review Source: eye WEEKLY

The film Marwencol is as mesmerizing as Mark's imaginary town and treats him and his world with absolute respect

December 17, 2010 Full Review Source: Playback:stl

A painfully intimate, mysterious, joyous film.

December 11, 2010 Full Review Source: Goatdog's Movies
Goatdog's Movies

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.
October 13, 2011
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.
May 25, 2011

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
April 29, 2011
Stella Dallas

Super Reviewer

There isn't really much else to Mark Hogancamp's after the first 10 minutes of this film but that said, something interesting always seems to happen just before you start to loose interest. I don't want to spoil it but the last 'revelation' is treated as much more of a big deal than it really is. I liked this film for the models to be honest, I love the idea and I thought the photos were brilliant. I think the best moments for me are missed by Jeff Malmberg though and I hope that not too much was lost in the editing room. I really liked his best friends interviews and he summed up the situation brilliantly when he said 'Some guy said 'I'm not interested in fake war, I want to see real War' and I said 'This is a real War man''. He should have had far more screen time in my opinion and it does suffer from a certain documentary structure cliche that is becoming a little too familiar of late, especially in American documentaries but overall a good and original documentary.
April 20, 2011

Super Reviewer

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