Interview with “Marwencol” Director, Jeff Malmberg
Art as Therapy has become a sort of short-hand for pretentious vanity projects where sincerity trumps ability. In the hands of director Jeff Malmberg however, the therapeutic power of art is the starting point for a compelling and refreshing glimpse into another man’s life.
In Marwencol, the man in question is Mark Hogencamp, a man who suffered a brutal beating at the hands of five assailants that left him so brain-damaged that he has almost no recollection of his past life before that terrible night. From this quasi fresh slate, Mark created Marwencol, a WWII era village made up entirely of Action Figures and Barbie Dolls modeled on himself and the people important to his life. It is here at 1/6th scale that Hogencamp begins to photograph a war-time drama that incorporates and revisits the enigmas and traumas of his own past life. However, Mark’s charmingly idiosyncratic world does not long remain unhidden after his playful and haunting photographs are published in the Esopus magazine. This attention from a wider world forces Mark to consider leaving Marwencol, and to come to terms with a past he only half remembers.
In it’s simplest, most beautiful form, the documentary is nothing more and certainly nothing less than a portrait of another life. In Marwencol, Malmberg invites us to know Mark in all his complexities, mysteries and little joys, even if at 1/6th scale.
Marwencol premiered at this year’s South by Southwest film festival (read our review) where it won the Grand Jury Prize for best documentary. Since then it has been playing at a variety of film festivals around the world from Comicon, to Hot Docs, to Montreal’s Fantasia Film Festival, where I was lucky enough to see it. I recently interviewed director Jeff Malmberg over Skype.
Also take a listen to episode #228 of Sound On Sight Radio in which we reviewed the film.
http://www.marwencol.com/theaters/ (upcoming release dates by city)