Review: Marwencol DVD

Marwencol DVDSTUDIO: Cinema Guild | DIRECTOR: Jeff Malmberg
RELEASE DATE: 4/12/11 | PRICE: DVD $29.95, Blu-ray $34.95
BONUSES: deleted scenes, additional story sequences, Mark’s reactions, intro by film critic Elvis Mitchell, collectible Marwencol mini-print
SPECS: NR | 84 min. | Documentary | 1.85:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital 2.0/DTS-HD 2.0

RATINGS (out of 5): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

Marwencol movie scene

Mark Hogencamp details the miniature town of Marwencol.

A truly unique documentary that has won accolades wherever it has played, Marwencol centers on Mark Hogencamp, an upstate New York man who suffered brain damage after he was brutally attacked by five men in a neighborhood bar in 2000. When his health insurance company stopped paying medical bills for rehabilitation, he began his own therapy by building a miniature version of a World War II village in Belgium, the fictional Marwencol. He populated it with era-appropriate doll characters based on people he knows and photographed his striking, realistic-looking results. Eventually, his long-term project was discovered by an art magazine, prompting a gallery show in Manhattan that both interested and scared the shielded Hogencamp.

Inspirational, unsettling and just plain odd, Marwencol is fascinating from the first movie frame to the last, with some final reel revelations that are sure to surprise. Gruff, chain-smoking and somewhat guarded, Hogencamp isn’t the most personable guy all the time, but his human qualities are what make him a downright fascinating and complex character.

Debuting film director Jeff Malmberg followed Hogencamp over the course of four years, capturing his subject with video and super 8mm cameras, and chronicling the stories that Hogencamp weaves about Marwencol village and his miniature-sized friends. Malmberg has made a poignant film that touches on such subjects as mortality, the health insurance crisis, the nature of art and the right to privacy, while being entertaining at the same time.

Both the Blu-ray and DVD offer an identical slew of extras. Most indispensable are the 17 deleted scenes that shed additional light on Hogencamp’s life and art. Amongst these are worthwhile sequences that find Hogencamp dressing his dolls, discussing his feelings about women and his continuing therapy, and attending his own art opening.

The discs also include seven additional, well-detailed Marwencol story sequences that transport viewers even further into the recesses of their creator’s healing mind.


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About Irv

Irv Slifkin has been reviewing movies since before he got kicked off of his high school radio station for panning The Towering Inferno in 1974. He has written the books VideoHound’s Groovy Movies: Far-Out Films of the Psychedelic Era and Filmadelphia: A Celebration of a City’s Movies, and has contributed film reportage and reviews to such outlets as Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Video Business magazine and National Public Radio.