Welcome to Marwen is a drama directed by Robert Zemeckis, who co-wrote the script with Caroline Thompson. It is inspired by Jeff Malmberg’s 2010 documentary, Marwencol. This movie follows the true story of Mark Hogancamp, a man struggling with PTSD who, after having his memory erased from being physically assaulted by Nazis, creates a fictional village to ease his trauma. The film was a box office bomb, with projected losses running as much as $60 million. Still, I was excited about seeing this movie — while it didn’t thoroughly satisfy my overall enthusiasm, I loved the brilliant special effects and thought the acting was superb.
Welcome to Marwen begins with a World War II warplane, piloted by a doll-like figure, hit by enemy fire and forced to crash land into a ditch. The pilot’s shoes have burned up because of the forced landing. While canvasing the area, the pilot finds a pair of women’s high heel shoes, which he decides to wear. The pilot is confronted by doll-like German soldiers, who taunt him after discovering he is wearing women’s shoes. The Germans threaten to emasculate him, but are killed by a group of doll-like women who come to the pilot’s rescue.
Shown in flashback, it is revealed that the doll-like figures are actually modified Barbie dolls photographed by Mark Hogancamp/Cap’n Hogie (Steve Carell), who has created a model village named Marwen (later renamed Marwencol) to help him deal with his diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder and memory loss from an attack some time earlier by five men after he unwisely told them about his fetish for wearing women’s shoes. Mark fantasizes that the dolls are alive and act out in scenes, which he photographs. The dolls correspond to people that he knows in real life: himself as the pilot; female friends as his protectors; and his attackers as Nazi soldiers. A green-haired doll named Deja Thoris (Diane Kruger) is a witch who prevents Cap’n Hogie from becoming too close to any woman, sending the women far into the future. Deja Thoris herself represents the pills which Mark takes to relieve his pain, to which he has become addicted.
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Mark has a court date to make a victim impact statement at the sentencing of the men who attacked him. After being initially reluctant to appear in court to confront his attackers, Mark is finally convinced to make an appearance at the hearing by his lawyer Demaryius Johnson (Conrad Coates) and Roberta (Merritt Wever), who is a sales clerk at the hobby store where he buys dolls for his village, but flees the court when he imagines the defendants becoming Nazi soldiers and shooting at him. Judge Martha J. Harter (Veena Sood) reschedules the sentencing hearing for the same day that Mark’s photographs will be shown to the public at an art gallery.
Mark falls in love with a woman named Nicol (Leslie Mann) who moves into the house across the road. He then buys a doll named Nicol to represent her. The doll Nicol, is in love with Cap’n Hogie and they get married. In real life, Mark proposes marriage to Nicol, who tells him that she just wants to be his friend. Mark takes Nicol’s rejection very hard and contemplates suicide. Mark imagines Nicol being shot by a Nazi, who in turn is killed by Cap’n Hogie and brought back to life.
Welcome to Marwen is a very interesting movie. After a tragedy, art reared it’s head in the creation of a Nazi village, represented by Barbie dolls. The fact that Welcome to Marwen is based on a true story makes it one of the most imaginative films I’ve seen. The special effects were absolutely brilliant and Steve Carell’s performance was convincing and showed a side of him you would otherwise rarely see. Welcome to Marwen is a fascinating movie that wheels you into a world of fantasy yet truth for Mark Hogancamp. While I don’t think this movie is for everyone, I highly recommend it for its art form and enlightenment. Check “Welcome to Marwen” out!