Welcome to Marwen has to be a weird experience for artist Mark Hogancamp. On April 8, 2000, Hogancamp was attacked by five men and left for dead outside a bar in Kingston, NY. After spending nine days in a coma, he awoke with no memory of his life, and had to re-learn how to eat, walk and write. He was a baby, re-born via violence, which also led to his greatest accomplishment as a human being.
Director Jeff Malmberg's documentary Marwencol is an intimate portrait of Hogancamp, whose recovery from this savage trauma revolved around painstakingly creating a world from action figures and miniatures. The titular fictional Belgian town is a 1/6-scale World War II no-man's land where German and American soldiers co-exist in peace. Along with photographs, journals, the recollections of friends and, most importantly, his "drunk journals" - furious writings that doubled as his frustrated rants at the world - Hogancamp was able to build a bridge to his old life again.
Along with connecting Hogancamp to his past, his art also helped him escape into his imagination. The creator developed an alter-ego in the town - a handsome and heroic captain, who declared himself the mayor, while running a bar and drinking only coffee. This character was often described by Mark as his own version of Sam from Cheers; the hunky drink-slinger who men envied and women adored.
Now, Robert Zemeckis is adapting Marwencol into Welcome to Marwen (which is also the name of the book the artist co-crafted with Steve Shellen), a star-studded Hollywood take on Malmberg's stunning non-fiction portrait, that stars Steve Carrell as Hogancamp, along with Janelle Monáe, Diane Kruger, and Gwendoline Christie. Suddenly, a thing that was built almost solely as a therapeutic outlet is now a major motion picture. That'd be strange for anyone.
Take a look:
To be honest, that trailer is...well, a lot. But, then again, Hogancamp's story is so endlessly fascinating that it could easily make for one hell of a studio film in the right hands. We just hope that Zemeckis leaves behind the saccharine overtones (that have plagued pictures like Forrest Gump) and instead tries to bring a real grounded humanity to this man's engrossing and poignant tale of self-invention and re-discovery.
Guess we'll all find out when Welcome to Marwen hits theaters November 21st.