Mark Metcalf
MFF preview

Marwencol

By - Sep 28th, 2010 04:00 am
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Marwencol is a documentary about a man named Mark Hogancamp who was beaten almost to death. After surviving he builds an entire town out of his imagination, creating a realistic village in Belgium during WWII in a one-sixth scale. It was his therapy and his salvation.

Photo Courtesy of Open Face

Reaching into his memories of life before the beating, Hogancamp creates characters in his diorama from people he knew, telling their stories and studying their relationships, eventually photographing the mini-world of the village. He did this only for himself.  He did not call attention to either his work or to his situation; it was his friends and people he met who chose to call it art and to put it on display.

The film confronts Mark Hogancamp in several ways:  as a man who was trying to live his life in a particular way before he was beaten; as a severely disabled man trying to find and secure the pieces of his life after the beating; and as that man, now taken as an artist, who has to deal with that certain kind of celebrity. The film is an affectionate and gentle guide to these three stages in the life of Mark Hogancamp.  It is intelligently done and achieves an intimacy with the man and the characters he has created that is rare in a documentary.

One of the best things about the film is something that I cannot speak of without giving it away, which I don’t want to do. In filmmaking and storytelling, as in magic tricks (which are stories in their own way), there is something called “the reveal.”   A secret is kept from the audience and “revealed” at the most surprising, most moving moment. When this is done well, the audience does not know that some piece of information has been withheld until the moment it is released, creating an enlightened feeling at the pinnacle of the film. The information feels like the film is putting the final piece into a puzzle, enabling a clear picture to form. Director Jeff Malmberg does this, artfully peels back layers of Mark Hogancamp’s character, the way Peer Gynt peels back the layers of his onion, to slowly reveal a complicated and finally very courageous man.

Marwencol plays as part of the Milwaukee Film Festival at the Marcus North Shore Cinema tonight at 9:30 and also at the Oriental Theatre on Wednesday, Sept. 29 at 7 p.m. For tickets and info, click here.

Mark Metcalf is a writer, professional actor and resident of Milwaukee. He hosts TCD’s weekly podcast “Backstage with Mark Metcalf” and occasionally writes the film blog “Moving Pictures.” Mark is also Milwaukee Film’s Director of Collaborative Cinema, giving area students hands-on experience with film making.

Categories: Movies

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