“If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry,” wrote Emily Dickinson. Emily’s wham-bang factor applies to the documentary film Marwencol, showing in The Toby on Thursday, December 9. Here’s a peek:
The subject of this film, Mark Hogancamp, almost had his head taken off by a pack of bullies in a bar. But Hogancamp lived to create a painstaking, war-torn, one-sixth scale universe called Mar-wen-col (a word combining his own name, and the names Wendy and Colleen, two significant women in his life). Marwencol is overrun with punk-i-fied Barbies and Nazi G.I. Joes, enacting a cycle of torture and love. Hogancamp’s bird’s eye photos of Marwencol are worthy of a New York gallery show.
Watching the film is like unstacking a set of Russian dolls, revealing ever weirder scenarios combined with spectacular pathos. The Boston Globe critic Ty Burr calls Marwencol “a strange and very beautiful documentary about the gray area between obsession and art — about the compulsive need to create something when the world leaves you with nothing.” (Read his full review.)
Any art museum is a haven for objects of embodied power: a Buddha statue, a Bidjogo mask, a painting of the Virgin Mary. The dolls he created to live in Marwencol are just as effecting for Hogancamp – and for viewers of the film.
My IMA colleague Lindsay Hand went to the South by Southwest film festival last March, and this was the standout film that we had to bring to the IMA. The screening’s co-presented by our friends at the Indianapolis International Film Festival. After the film, we’re going to skype in filmmaker Jeff Malmberg for a virtual post-film chat in The Toby.
Marwencol is also showing this week in Toronto, Minneapolis, and San Francisco. We’ve brought it to Indianapolis for your viewing pleasure—if it pleases you to have your mind blown.