Documentaries have long been cursed with a sad, yet inevitable stigma. The stigma that all documentaries are too boring, or too long, or too educational to possibly be considered REAL entertainment. However, with the fairly recent outbreak of sites like “Netflix”, “Youtube”, and “Hulu”, finding quality nonfiction programming has never been easier.
If you were to ask me a year ago how I felt about documentaries, I would have responded somewhere along the lines of, “Documentaries suck. I don’t care about real things. Now leave me alone I’m watching ‘Pocahontus’”. However, that’s before I saw “Marwencol”.
The short description Netflix provided was enough to convince me to hit the play button. The documentary revolves around a young man who loses all of his memory after being beat up by a gang of men one night. After having to relearn everything from walking, to talking, to just opening drawers again, Mark Hogancamp finds peace in creating a world of his own. And his medium? Dolls. Marwencol is the name of a town created entirely by Mark that includes dolls representing real relationships he has with real people. However, although the dolls are unoriginal, Mark creates stories with the characters in the World War II Era town; taking beautiful photographs of important scenes along the way.
A huge part of what makes this particular documentary so intriguing is the marriage between Mark’s story of recovery, and the invented story Mark creates within his small-scale doll world. For instance, in reality, Mark has an awkward encounter with one of his female neighbors. However, in Marwencol, the same neighbor will profess her love to him, only to be captured by the Nazi police and held hostage until hero Mark comes to save her.
You’re confused. I know it. Still, all you really need to know is that Marwencol not only helped a man recover from brain trauma, but more importantly*, completely changed my attitude about documentary films. If you’re looking for something new and different to watch, I urge you to give Marwencol a shot. It changed my mind, so it might just change yours.
*I don't actually find my change of attitude more important than a man's recovery. That was a joke.