Jeff Malmberg’s 2010 documentary Marwencol is one of the most interesting, immersive nonfiction stories that has been put together in the past few years. If it was just about a guy who was beat so bad by a group of drunk young men that he had to figure out a way to piece his fractured mind back together afterward, it probably would have been interesting enough. If it was just about a grown man who was so good at playing with dolls that the pictures he took of the little scenarios he concocted with them eventually got put into art galleries, it probably would have been interesting enough. But Marwencol combines both these stories and other layers that shouldn’t be given away to create a moviegoing experience that’s sometimes unsettling, often strangely comforting, but always rich. It’s kind of like movie lasagna.
The subject of the film is a man named Mark Hogancamp, who was the victim of the aforementioned beating, and who dealt with his trauma by creating and photographing the aforementioned doll world. To be more specific, Hogancamp took the people and places he knew, and he recreated them through the lens of a fictional World War II-era Belgian town called Marwencol that was known for its bounty of friendly hookers, the brutality of its SS raids, and the blue-haired, time traveling witch named Deja Thoris who called it home. All of that sounds pretty weird, right? That’s why Robert Zemeckis thinks it’s the perfect material to tackle for his next movie.
The news that Zemeckis has signed on to helm a dramatized version of Marwencol seems to have been posted by both Heat Vision and Variety at the same time, so take your pick as to who you want to give the credit to. The basic story seems to be that Universal optioned the rights to Hogancamp’s story, they set up Caroline Thompson (Edward Scissorhands, Corpse Bride) to pen the script, and now they’ve got Zemeckis on board to direct. At first glance this might seem like a strange, intimate story for a mainstream director like Zemeckis to take on, but if you factor in that it adds the blending of fantasy and reality of Who Framed Roger Rabbit to the portrait of a unique mind of Forrest Gump and tells it in the context of a tale of human perseverance like Cast Away, then the choice starts to make a little more sense. Theoretically.
Early reports indicate that Zemeckis would like to land Leonardo DiCaprio to play the Hogancamp role, but given the fact that his schedule is so busy, no negotiations have happened yet, and there’s no telling if he would even be interested in the part in the first place, that might be a bit of a long shot. It is pretty fun to picture DiCaprio donning the beaded necklace, cutoff shorts, and constant lit cigarette that are essential to Hogancamp’s style though. What do you say, Leo?
For those who may not be familiar with the Marwencol documentary, why not watch the trailer to familiarize yourself? It’s a pretty entertaining watch in itself.