‘Welcome to Marwen’ Just Might Stay True to Mark Hogancamp’s Tale, After All

Though it looks like a glazed over crowdpleaser, Robert Zemeckis’ ‘Welcome to Marwen’ just may do justice to the tragic tale of an accidental artist.

A few days before Christmas, Steve Carell and Robert Zemeckis will unveil Welcome to Marwen. Newcomers to the story are likely drawn to the trailers’ colorful blend of explosive action and Steve Carell’s inimitable everyman routine. Sure, it’s endearing, but it’s only half the story.

In April of 2000, Mark Hogancamp found himself accosted and savagely beaten by a group of men outside his local bar in Kingston, New York. He spent nine days in a coma and woke up with near-total amnesia. Hogancamp spent several months in rehab, relearning to take care of himself until the state stopped payments. With that, Hogancamp found himself back at home, left to his own devices.

Unable to hold down a consistent job or drive a car, Hogancamp chose to channel his rehab into a 1:6 scale model World War II village. As he rebuilt his motor skills on the construction of his tiny village, Hogancamp began taking pictures of his creations. The result was blinding insight into an ordinary man’s frustration, insecurity, and hope.

The whole story was captured in a riveting 2010 documentary called Marwencol, after the name of Hogancamp’s fictional village. As the doc unravels, it becomes clear that Hogancamp — known, then, as the town drunk — was assaulted by a mixed-race group of men after confessing that he enjoyed wearing women’s shoes. In addressing Hogancamp’s innate desires, Marwencol becomes, not a revenge tale, but a story about the beauty and power of self-acceptance.

To see that layer of complexity seemingly homogenized into a sugary-sweet Christmas flick is a bummer. The multi-racial gang of people has been turned into a bunch of neo-Nazis, and there’s nary a mention of Mark Hogancamp’s proclivities in the trailer. The movie looks like fun, sure, because of stuff like this:

But to eliminate a crucial aspect of the real-life story in favor of hitting the same-old “inspiring” movie notes seems like a waste. Then, this morning’s clips came out, and nestled among the various bits and bobs was this little gem.

If you stop the scene at the 33-second mark, you’ll find Steve Carell peering into his intricately-detailed diorama. Front and center in the shot is Hogancamp’s doppelganger, tough guy soldier Hogie. 

And Hogie is sporting some very tall stilettos. It’s a small nugget, but it just might be enough. In fact, you could argue that by sublimating the more risqué aspects of the story, Robert Zemeckis is about to trick millions of families into spending Christmas rooting for a dude who likes wearing women’s clothing. Now, how much fun would that be?

Fans of the 2010 documentary Marwencol may have something to look forward to in Robert Zemeckis’ big-budget adaptation of Mark Hogancamp’s tragic story when Welcome to Marwen hits theaters on December 21.