A new look at Welcome to Marwen with the recent US & UK DVD releases. Read about my movie theater experience here.
Welcome to Marwen (2018) is a Robert Zemeckis movie based on the true story of Mark Hogancamp. Having already seen the documentary Marwencol (2010), I already knew the following about Mark and his incredible life story, which provided a useful foundation for this movie.
Mark Hogancamp is a hate crime survivor. He mentioned he likes wearing women’s shoes while drinking at a bar, and in return got jumped from behind by five guys. They beat him nearly to death, putting him in a coma for nine days. When he regained consciousness, Mark had no memory of his prior life and had to relearn to write, speak, and walk again.
His state funding for medical care soon ran out, so he turned to a miniature world for his own version of therapy. His hands were too shaky for smaller scale models so, at the suggestion of a local hobby shop owner, he settled on 1:6 scale (think Barbie and GI Joe) and created the fictional Belgian town of ‘Marwencol’, circa World War II.
Previously an alcoholic, Mark never drank again after the attack. I say this as a precursor, but even in real life, yes, his views on women are somewhat off-putting. He adores them, but from a distance. They’re different than other people; held on a pedestal and lacking personal narratives.
I, myself, also photograph toys and have PTSD, just like Mark.
I didn’t begin photographing toys to heal from trauma (it’s been in my life much longer than that), but I can relate to the calming properties of creation. Toy photography provides a tangible way to illustrate emotions and work through personal stories. I also agree that war is a good allegory for personal struggle and I’ve used it in such a way in my own work. In this, I became quite interested in Mark Hogancamp’s fascinating story. Not only that, but his work is beautiful. His raw, non-art school principled, documentarian take on miniature war scenes are striking.