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Film Of The Week The resurrection of Mark Hogancamp

MARIA DUARTE is taken by this story of self-worth, moral courage and determination in overcoming the effects of violent homophobic prejudice

Welcome to Marwen (12A)
Directed by Robert Zemeckis

From the ingenious Robert Zemeckis, who brought us Back to the Future, comes his most unique film to date in which he brings the harrowing yet inspiring life story of artist Mark Hogancamp to the big screen.

Hogancamp was brutally beaten up by homophobic thugs in 2000 and when he came out of a nine-day coma he had no memory of his past life and the former illustrator could no longer draw. When his health insurance ran out and would no longer pay for his therapy he turned to art.

Hogancamp built a miniature Belgian World War II town in his back yard to help him reconstruct his memories and filled it with action dolls — each representing a friend or family member. He arranged vignettes in which his nazi attackers were killed in every possible scenario. He then photographed the scenes and they formed the focus of his exhibitions.

Based on Jeff Malmberg’s 2010 documentary on Hogancamp called Marwencol, Zemeckis explores Hogancamp’s (Steve Carell’s) PTSD and the fantasy world of his Marven installation, which he retreats into when life gets too tough, seeking aid and advice from his alter ego capt’n Hogie (Carell) and the women of Marwen.

They are all bad-ass, gun-wielding sexy Barbie style dolls looking like the women in his life and who protect him from evil.

As Hogie, a braver version of himself, declares, “women are the saviours of the world” — apparently they are the only people the real Hogancamp can relate to because he has never been hurt by them.

Zemeckis used motion capture to bring the dolls to life and appear like their A list counterparts. He seamlessly marries the semi-animated scenes with the live action.

The result is a visually arresting feast punctuated by poignant performances from Carell and his female co-stars including Leslie Mann, Janelle Monae and Diane Kruger. Carell is magnificent as Hogancamp and Hogie delivering two polar opposite powerhouse turns and demonstrating his extensive acting chops.

The film doesn't shy away from depicting Hogancamp’s violent beating or his penchant for wearing women’s high heeled shoes (the reason he was beaten up) without portraying him as a creepy shoe fetishist even though he owned almost 300 pairs.

It is an extraordinary film about female empowerment, being accepted for being different and overcoming all the odds. The most original film of the year.


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