A Documentary, opening Friday.
Five men attacked Mark Hogancamp with such viciousness he lost his entire memory and considerable brain function. As a form of self-therapy, he has used Barbie Dolls, GI Joe-type action figures, and models to create a fantasy world of his own.
That world centers on a town, Marwencol, in World War II Europe. There, Mark’s rugged and macho-looking alter ego runs a bar, is wooed by a bevy of beautiful women, and has adventures fighting the SS. Many of these adventures, which often involve his getting captured and tortured, seem to be working out his feelings about his assault.
But maybe not. He was a talented illustrator (not professionally) before the attack. His drawings, or at least those that filmmaker Jeff Malmberg chooses to show us, were just as violent and war-oriented as his current creations.
Hogancamp creates and photographs elaborate stories with his dolls. And the photos are amazing, almost cinematic in their ability to bring character and action into these still objects. His work has been exhibited in a New York gallery.
Hogancamp’s elaborate and carefully-created fantasies carry a great deal of this documentary. The rest depends on Hogancamp’s history and personality. A heterosexual cross-dresser with macho mannerisms, he has had to learn to walk, talk, read, and write all over again in his late 30s. He also had to learn what he was like beforehand and how much of that he wants back.
Malmberg balances Hogancamp’s reality and fantasy expertly. By the end, you know the real man, and the made-up world that he chooses—consciously—to live in.