The Women of Marwen

The Women of Marwen January 18, 2019

One of the more thoughtful and artistically interesting movies of the holiday season is The Women of Marwen, which
I suspect will at least win some cinematography awards. Steve Carell is excellent, as is often the case, and he has a stunning supporting cast of women with Leslie Mann, Diane Kruger, Merritt Wever, and Janelle Monae. The movie tells the true story of a man named Mark Hogenkamp badly beaten by a bunch of young racist and homophobic ‘Nazi’ thugs and how he tries to pick up the pieces of his life through creating an imaginary village in Belgium named Marwen and re-creating battles scenes in which he with the help of these women beat the Nazis. Hogenkamp had been an illustrator but he lost the use of his drawing hand he was so badly beaten. He retreated into his fantasy world of Marwen in order to heal. He turned to photography since he couldn’t draw any more. If he could win the battle in Marwen then perhaps he could win the battle in reality, and become a less broken person.

The movie is 116 minutes long and as some of the critics have complained, it is somewhat disjointed. The lines between fantasy and reality are blurred, not just in Mark’s mind, but in reality, and in one scene Mark tries to act out in reality his fantasy about a woman who is his neighbor…. with negative results. What is odd about this movie is while his lawyer wants to portray his assault as a homophobic hate crime (which it is from the point of view of the views of the thugs about Mark), the movie does not suggest he is gay, only a heterosexual who loves women, and has a female shoe fetish. There is a difference.

I will not spoil the climax of the movie for you, but I will say this, healing can come through the arts, and through friends, and through persevering, and of course through prayer and divine intervention. This movie does
not explore the latter in any real way, though there is one imaginary scene where Mark the ‘doll’ is praying in a church, and Nazis show up and try to kill him. Most of all, Mark has to conquer his fears, but to its credit
the film does not suggest it is easy, or a quick process. The film concludes with a picture of the real man
himself, who still lives in upstate NY, and is still taking pictures and creating imaginative Marwen scenes.

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