It’s true that films based on true stories fall under harsh criticism due to lack of accuracy or addition of fictionalized characters that never existed in real life. But if that character or any part of the story told does not manipulate the truth, then it should be fine, isn’t it? “Welcome to Marwen”, co-written by Caroline Thompson and Robert Zemeckis and directed by Zemeckis himself, tells the true story of a man who, after surviving a brutal attack, finds his way to live through PTSD by creating a little world of his own known as Marwen.
Mark Hogancamp would draw beautiful paintings. One day his walk to the bar, not too far from his home, sends him to a hospital after being beaten up viciously by a group of young men. It was a hate attack – the reason did not that matter anymore. When Mark’s ability to draw pictures was taken away and PTSD became a part of his life, he decided to photograph the story he creates with the help of toys where heroes are only women, which Mark believes, are the savior of the world.
Many may misunderstand the concept of “Welcome to Marven” or the message it tries to convey. But as you begin watching it, you should be prepared for a fascinating journey inside of Mark’s head and how he tries to cope with the brutal attack by attacking his own fears through a dramatized event of Captain Hogie, his fight with Nazi, the women that become heroes of his art installation. And moreover, it’s a beautiful love story of one man and his way to respond to violence. “I was beaten up because I was different, so I’ve built a place where I can heal,” he will say at some point, because that was the only thing holding him back from not giving up his battle with the injustice committed against him.
The live action part of the film is quite stunning, very colorful, and devastating at times. But it never falls short of entertaining. In fact Mark’s created characters are Anna, GI Julie, Suzette, Nicol (Mark’s redhead neighbor who he falls for), Roberta (another friend who genuinely cares about him), Caralala, and Diane Cruger’s Deja Thoris, a Belgian Witch of Marwen, whose purpose in the film yet to be revealed.
Another important part of this film is something I hope you will notice – it manages to get into Mark’s head, go through his pain, challenge him, and show the same challenge and struggle to us. Certain scenes are painful to watch. You realize that he suffers from PTSD. The attack on him leaves a mark on his life. The scene at the court where in chaos he runs away, while all the dolls and his imaginary Captain Hogie begins shooting at the Nazi officers, was truly impressive. One might say it’s impossible to ever happen. But before saying that, it’s crucial to remember that we are lucky enough to not experience the same fear or trauma, but that does not mean a drama of that scale cannot happen to someone else.
In conclusion, “Welcome to Marven” is an inspiring story of an artist who did not stop creating art even after his abilities were taken away due to an attack. He wears high heels and makes his protagonist to wear the same as well not because they loved dressing up like women. It’s not that. This story is about the taste of life. It’s about not being afraid to go beyond normalcy to explore something new. Breaking boundaries and discovering new image is what art needs, that’s why we have people with artistic nature.
That said, “Welcome to Marwen” can be used as evidence that with the right amount of will and strong determination, any foe can be bitten. And that foe is not a human being but a fear Mark, over the course of the film, begins to embrace. And thanks to Steve Carell’s remarkably moving performance, the journey you’re about embark yourself on is a travel into the wonderful mind of one man who knew there is only one way to go when you finds yourself down – up.
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