WELCOME TO MARWEN – Review by Martha K. Baker

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Welcome to Marwen is dark and deep. For those who saw the 2010 documentary, Marwencol, the feature film is a welcome back with “welcome” used advisedly. It’s hard to feel welcomed to a world that, although therapeutic for one man, is strange for visitors. Both films are creepy, a little, and the feature film is dark and hard, a lot.

Robert Zemeckis has an arm’s length of credits as producer and director, among them Back to the Future and Forest Gump. Zemeckis translated the biography of Mark Hogancamp from life via documentary to whizz-bang technoflick. Hogancamp was beat to a pulp in a bar by a troop of Swastika-tattooed gents. They did not like Hogancamp’s admitting drunkenly that he liked to wear women’s shoes. As a result of the attack, Hogancamp lost all memory of being an illustrator of WWII magazines. He became a photographer of his own world, a WWII Belgium village he named Marwen. Hogancamp’s world is led by women, those women of his upstate N.Y. town who continue to succor him through healing from post-traumatic stress. Then, there are the men and women who bedevil him. Each is represented by a doll that Hogancamp buys at a hobby shop. Very dark if therapeutic.

Steve Carell transitions well as Hogie, surrounded by Eiza González, Leslie Mann, Diane Kruger, Janelle Monáe, and Merritt Wever as the “women who are the saviors of the world.”

Zemeckis and his techno team made Hogancamp and his harem real as well as articulated plastic people. Very odd. At first, vaguely laughable then not funny at all. Pitiful and intriguing, both as narrative and as film, but almost unendurable.

I’m Martha K. Baker. From the Grand Center Arts District, this is 88.1, KDHX, St. Louis.

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Martha K. Baker (Archived Contributor)

I first taught film at Lakeland College in Wisconsin in 1969 and became a professional film reviewer in 1976 in St. Louis, Mo. Through the years, I have reviewed films for the St. Louis Business Journal, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Episcopal Life, and KWMU (NPR), among other outlets. I've reviewed at KDHX radio, my current outlet, for nearly 20 years.