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On April 8, 2000, aspiring artist Mark Hogancamp (Steve Carell) became a victim of a violent assault when five men beat him up and left him for dead. Following the attack, Mark was left with little to no memory of his previous life due to brain damage inflicted by his attackers. In a desperate attempt to regain his memories, Hogancamp constructs a miniature World War II village called Marwen in his yard to help in his recovery. Unfortunately, Mark's demons come back to haunt him when he's asked to testify against the five men that attacked him..
Severely underrated, well acted, well produced film
The critics got this film wrong. The only problem with this film is that it was released in the wrong era. If this movie was released in the nineties or early 2000's it would be getting rave reviews. Honestly as one user put it, in 10 years this film will be looked back on fondly.
The film is based on the true story of Mark Hogancamp who was brutally assaulted outside a bar for admitting he wore women's heels. He lost his memory of everything that happened before the attack and had to rebuild his life. He could no longer draw, (he was an artist) and instead used a fictional WW2 village he created in his backyard using dolls and action figures called Marwencol as a therapeutic outlet. He then parlayed this into an art installation that gained wide acclaim.
In the film itself, director Robert Zemekis and Steve Carell craft a moving multifaceted Mark Hogancamp who is unequivocally broken from the assault. In the film he is suffering from extreme anxiety and social dysfunction as a result of the attack and this is represented by the dolls coming to life in extraordinary CGI sequences.
As mentioned the film isn't easy to consume. Mark is a flawed human being and is struggling to live in the real world. Steve Carell does an amazing job of bringing this to life in a nuanced fashion but it is uncomfortable, especially in an age where the male gaze is vilified. The women exist to serve Hoagie. They are Mark's only tangible connection to the world. This is done purposely however and it works within the context of this film. The film is after all, about Mark and how he struggles with the aftermath of the attack and how to find his place in the world.
While Mark's interactions with the women of Marwen and their real world counterparts was criticized, I think that the discomfort that these interactions produce is the mark of a good film. Mark is recovering from a brutal attack and has no connection to the real world and how to navigate relationships outside of his dolls. His demons come to life and are dealt with in the fictional village of Marwen. Him learning to get on with his life and divest himself from his fantasy is one of the key themes of the film. Mark's not perfect. He's creepy at times but that is OK. He's human and is recovering from a terrible attack.
I really enjoyed this film, it's obvious that great care went into crafting this film and all the actors and actresses did a phenomenal job and the CGI scenes are breathtaking.
Some criticisms are the sometimes questionable dialogue in the CGI scenes. I would also have liked to see more of the attack that left Mark in this condition and the men who did it, especially as they were also represented in his fictional village as Nazi soldiers. The editing was good for the most part but a few scenes could have done with some trimming.
All in all this is a severely underrated film. Its originality is its weakness in the modern film goers eyes as it doesn't check the boxes of modern film-making. It's not a superhero film, not a sequel and doesn't actively beat you over the head with a socio-political agenda. It's a film that brings you into the broken world of a flawed man and asks you to live his recovery with him warts and all.
This film is definitely worth a watch but is sadly going to be buried under the negative press. In a world of sequels and superheros, originality is a lost art but the team behind Welcome to Marwen get kudos for trying something different.
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