Welcome to Marwen (2018)
I really fancied this when it was released. The trailer looked fun. I don’t usually like Steve Carrell much though, although I did enjoy Space Force, but anyway I forgot about it. Until it popped up on Netflix. We start with an animated sequence, depicting Cap’n Hogie (Carell), a WWII fighter pilot crash landing in France and getting caught my Nazis. It’s a weird comedic yet graphic fantasy. Orchestrated by Mark Hogancamp (also Carrell). He’s not animated. He lives in the real world, but one in which he creates detailed models and characters that live in them... and in Mark’s mind, they do live. They’re his coping mechanism. A world called Marwen he’s created and meticulously photographed to tell and retell a story over and over. Mark was attacked in his small rural home town you see, leaving not only a broken body, but a broken mind. Now he recreates elements of his real life into the fantasy Marwen. It’s all based on a true story, which does make it genuinely interesting, but the mix of the two worlds does make it feel a little too jovial, too silly. Okay it’s stars Carrell, most noted for farce, of course it’s a bit silly, but it still works. His whole fabricated world is based around the attack, the Nazis are his swastika tattooed assailants. The good guys, all those that have helped in his recovery. Being a true story, it feels like you’ve gotta respect the structure, but the story does plod. As satisfying as Mark’s revenge fantasies are, the repetition does get a bit dull. His Marwen and the photos he takes of it have earned him status as an artist, even with a show coming up, but one he’s reluctant to embrace. He likes his world, comfortable between his dolls, his camera, his job in a small diner and a string of well wishers. Everyone indulges Mark, I’m no psychologist, but it doesn’t seem to help him, he’s trapped and it feels like we’re waiting for something to force him out of this trance. To be honest though, watching it you want him to be happy, to be safe. This works for him, why upset him further. There’s an issue though. His attackers are on trial and in danger of getting off if he can’t face them in court and face reality. It’s quite heartbreaking. The CGI though is gorgeous. The faces of the dolls match their real life counterparts perfectly, it really is quite stunning. Like Mark, it shields us from the pain in this story. It’s pretty inventive stuff, not all that surprising with Robert Zemeckis at the helm and we even get a Back to the Future reference. It’s funny and sweet, deep and beautiful. I don’t think it was received well and that’s a real shame as there’s a lot here to appreciate.