Wednesday, June 22, 2011

"Marwencol": fantasy village of Mark Hogancamp

In 2000, artist Mark Hogancamp was beaten viciously outside a bar in Kingston, NY by gang-like young men who hated cross dressers.  Broke and severely disabled, Mark rebuilt a life by building a 1/6 scale model of a WWII era town (supposedly in Belgium) in his back yard, called Marwencol.  The documentary film of that name by Jeff Malmberg, released by Cinema Guild.

Mark lived in his fantasy town, where the dolls were based on people he knew. He would imagine situations that could have occurred in occupied lands during WWII.  It was a little bit like living in the world of a model railroad exhibit.  I used to like to do that as a boy. Mother would call that “Baby play”.

The stories that Hogencamp invents, however, are intricate, detailed and poignant, even if a little of it sounds like fairy tales in the face of an enemy. The town has a king and queen. The people resist the Nazi's toying with them as if the invaders were extraterrestrials conquering another planet. A little bit of the narrative, especially in the deleted scenes, is personally quite bodily sensitive. In one of his stories, people make crosses out of human blood as a decoy.

He talks about the wrongfullness of judging other people, and says "men tried to kill me" and admires female moral values. In other clips he says he knows he is "talking to himself" and living in fantasy (an issue in my own therapy back in the early 60s). 

Eventually, he is approached to have his town shown as an exhibit in New York City, when he must deal with going back to the world, having regained most of his life skills in the mean time.

He mentions being married, and I can recall writings (as in those of Paul Rosenfels) that most cross dressers are actually straight. In one scene, he says he contemplates whether he would prefer to look like James Bond, or be “smooth”.  He seems to want to move from playing one kind of person to the next, in a kind of constant rotation.

The official site for the 2010 film is here.

The DVD has many small extras, including a miniature of the show in NYC, and a video of his watching his own film, as well as more make-believe stories with the dolls. 

The YouTube official trailer from Cinema Guild is here.
 The idea of models has occurred in other movies. In the 1980 David Lynch film "The Elephant Man", Joseph Merrick constructs a model of a cathedral (the film was in BW), as here on Flickr. 

Pictures: Above: the Fairfield village from "Roadside America" in PA; below, my own model railroad around 1952 or so. 

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