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Marwencol Review

  • Release Date: Oct 08, 2010
  • Rated:
  • Runtime: 1 hr. 22 min.
  • Genres: Documentary
  • Director:Jeff Malmberg

Other Critics provided by

Critics scores range from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating more favorable reviews.

  • 5.0

    out of 100

    Universal acclaim
    based on a weighted average of all
    critic review scores.

  • 100

    out of 100

    Los Angeles Times Kevin Thomas

    Watching Marwencol, Jeff Malmberg's probing documentary on Hogancamp's undertaking, is an exhilarating, utterly unique experience.

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  • 90

    out of 100

    The New York Times Jeannette Catsoulis

    Four years in the making, Marwencol emerges as a number of things: an absorbing portrait of an outsider artist; a fascinating journey from near-death to active life; a meditation on the brain's ability to forge new pathways when old ones have been destroyed.

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  • 90

    out of 100

    Village Voice Michael Atkinson

    Exactly the sort of mysterious and almost holy experience you hope to get from documentaries and rarely do, Jeff Malmberg's Marwencol is something like a homegrown slice of Herzog oddness, complete with true-crime backfill and juicy metafictive upshot.

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  • 91

    out of 100

    Entertainment Weekly Lisa Schwarzbaum

    This tender documentary considers the mysteries of both art and coping.

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  • See all Marwencol reviews at

For Families provided by Common Sense Media

OK for kids 16+

Fascinating docu traces victim's unusual healing process.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this award-winning documentary takes a frank look at the badly-traumatized victim of a brutal beating and examines sensitive issues such as alcoholism, sexuality, revenge, and the fragility of the human brain. As a coping and healing strategy, the subject creates a miniature city with dolls to help him overcome the damage to his brain as well as the terrible fears that linger. The dolls, dressed, made up (often bloodied and scarred), and sometimes placed in provocative positions, engage in lovemaking, World War II battles, torture, and mayhem. There are numerous references to the subject's past alcoholic behavior; he smokes continuously. Some strong language is heard occasionally ("pissed off," "asshole," "f--k," "s--t").

  • Families can talk about the resilience of the human spirit. Do you think Mark Hogancamp was better off before or after the attack? Why?
  • Documentary filmmakers usually have an attitude about their subjects. How did the people making this film feel about Mark?
  • How does the presence of filmmakers and reporters affect Hogencamp's life? Is there any danger to exposing this man's life to the curious world? Do the filmmakers have any responsibility toward their subject's safety and/or mental health?

The good stuff
  • message true3

    Messages: This film confirms that in the aftermath of even the most devastating and life-threatening event, an individual can reconstruct a fulfilling life.

  • rolemodels true2

    Role models: Mark Hogencamp, the victim of a near-fatal attack, is the ultimate survivor. His innate artistic talent, a passionate sense of purpose, and his desire to not let the perpetrators win, combine to help him forge a fragile, if unconventional way of life, and begin to make a name for himself in the art world. The film also introduces many good-hearted, generous people who help him make his way.

What to watch for
  • violence false2

    Violence: Many acts of violence are depicted by manipulating an array of dolls (Barbies and GI Joes). The dolls are bloodied, scarred, tortured, and bullet-ridden in numerous sequences as courageous doll-heroes (including the alter ego of the artist himself) engage the German SS (in doll-form) in the fictional town of Marwencol, Belgium during World War II. The film takes place after the brutal beating (with sexual implications) of the main subject. The beating is discussed, but not seen.

  • sex false2

    Sex: Sexuality is restricted to the artist posing the Barbie and GI dolls in sexual positions and in various stages of undress. In dialogue, the artist talks about his own desires for love and intimacy and expresses those feelings using the dolls.

  • language false2

    Language: Occasional coarse language, including: "pisses off," "asshole," "f--k," "s--t," and a reference to cross-dressing.

  • consumerism false1

    Consumerism: Most of the characters in the film are created using Barbie and GI Joe dolls.

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false2

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: Honest discussions about Mark Hogencamp's previous severe alcoholism and his sobering up after the attack upon him. Mark smokes non-stop throughout the film.