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Film / Welcome to Marwen

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"They kicked every memory I ever had out of my head. Everything from before the attack is gone, so my dolls have to tell the story."

A very strange hybrid live-action/animated film made by Universal and DreamWorks SKG.

Welcome to Marwen is an Urban Fantasy film directed by Robert Zemeckis, loosely based on the documentary film Marwencol and the true story of Mark Hogancamp.

After a near fatal beating by some local neo-Nazis, artist Mark Hogancamp (played by Steve Carell) is unable to draw any more or afford professional therapy for his brain injuries. He is inspired to create the fictional World War II Belgian town of Marwen in his back yard from everyday junk and populate it with dolls representing people in his life, including his attackers, which he then creates hyper-realistic photo dioramas with. The fictional world of Marwen becomes Hogancamp's own personal therapy to overcome the lasting effects of the attack.

Trope Examples

  • Action Girl: The Women of Marwen.
  • Adaptation Name Change: Marwencol is renamed Marwen for the film, though he adds the "col" at the end.
  • An Aesop: Fantasy can help you cope, but you cannot live there forever.
  • And You Were There: All of the fictional residents of Marwen are based on people Hogancamp knows.
    • The five men who beat Mark nearly to death as well as Kurt, the abusive boyfriend Nicol broke up with are also there, as the Nazi villains.
  • Band of Sisters: The Marwen ladies, oh so very much.
  • Camp Straight: Downplayed in that his fondness for women's footwear is Mark's only non-heteronormative trait, but his attackers called him a "queer" for it.
  • Cannot Tell Fiction from Reality: Downplayed but there are a few instances where Mark is clearly getting a bit too caught up in Marwen. Such as telling the real Nicol that he knew she was a stiletto person so he was glad he put them on her... or rather the Marwen!Nicol (which the real Nicol catches and is a little uncomfortable with). And then there’s where he tries to recreate Hoagie and Marwen!Nicol’s marriage proposal in reality. Which goes about as well as one would expect. This fits in with the movie's Aesop however.
  • Chivalrous Pervert: Many of Mark's illustrations from before the attack and the situations he creates for the Women of Marwennote  are on the racy side, but the stories he crafts are about how he wants to protect (and is protected by) the women in his life.
    • While Mark does respect women, he does pepper his language with slightly misogynistic parlance. Possibly averted as he's talking as Hoagie, a man from the 1940s.
  • Cool Plane: Hoagie's P-40 Warhawk, though he loses it early in the film.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: Nicol's ex Kurt gets in Mark's face when seeing him with Nicol together, going so far to mock Mark's hobby and accused him of being both a white supremacist (which ironically Mark was actually attacked by) and a child molester.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: After their counterparts fall in love in Marwen, Real!Mark proposes to Nicol, but is turned down. He still cares about her enough to add part of her name to the town, making it "Marwencol", but at the end of the movie he asks Roberta out on a date.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Something Mark learns when he tries proposing to Nicol. Not only is she not in a good place for romance, let alone marriage, but she and Mark had only known each other for about two or three weeks tops.
  • Dirty Cop: Downplayed with Kurt, he was once a policeman, but was fired due to his drunk driving.
  • Dirty Coward: Hogancamp's attackers, who outnumber him five to one, club him from behind while he's walking away and then repeatedly stomp on his head while he's helpless.
  • Fallen Hero: Nicol's ex-boyfriend Kurt used to be cop, specifically a bomb squad member who presumably saved a lot of lives through defusing bombs to be called a hero, until his drunk-driving led to his firing and has reduced him to a Lower-Class Lout who had treated Nicol poorly.
  • Fanservice: The Marwen Ladies are occasionally shown topless or in sheer outfits revealing their buttocks. Averted in that they (of course) have Barbie Doll anatomy. Marwen!Anna's costume is particularly hilarious: ushanka, Red Army jacket... and a tutu and red stockings!
  • Game-Breaking Injury: As a result of the injury suffered during his attack, Hogancamp goes from a talented artist to "struggling to write my own name." He turns to dolls and models as a result, wanting to continue being an artist.
  • Heroic BSoD: Mark when Nicol declines his proposal. He freezes completely, and is unable to look her in the eye.
  • Hopeless Suitor: Mark. He desperately wants Nicol to be more than a friend, and is driven to act by Hoagie and Marwen!Nicol's blossoming romance. However he doesn't understand that Nicol is not currently in a position to be dating anybody, given her current situation (settling into a new house, crazy stalker ex, etc).
  • Jerkass: Kurt, Nicol's ex-boyfriend, isn't a very nice fellow. Given he used to be a cop, but got fired due to his drunk driving, it's implied he takes out his dismay of his unemployment on Nicol and anyone he is hostile towards like Mark.
  • Mistaken for Gay: Played for Drama, as Mark was deemed "queer" by some neo-Nazis in a bar when he drunkenly mentioned liking to wear high heels, which they beat him severely for.
  • Ms. Fanservice: All the Marwen ladies, really.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Hogancamp is beaten so badly he's unconscious for nine days and hospitalized for another month after that. Because of this, he suffers brain damage such that he can't even remember his life prior to the beating, or write his name.
  • Oscar Bait: Even before its release, people were already talking about a possible Oscar nomination for Carell based on scenes from the trailers. The film was also released just ten days before the close of possible nominations on December 31 2018.
    • In the end, it was not nominated for any Oscars.
  • Pet the Dog: Virtually everyone in town is very nice to and supportive of Mark. Standouts are Roberta, who shares his interest in dolls and models, and Carlala, who eagerly listens to the latest exploits of The Marwen team.
  • Pocket Protector: The Nicol in Marwen is shot by the SS Commander, but is saved by the purple heart medal Marwen's Mark used to propose to her.
    • Slightly subverted as the Purple Heart stops the bullet from going through her, but she is still injured severely to where she loses a lot of blood and may possibly die.
  • Rabid Cop: Nicol's ex-boyfriend Kurt is an ex-cop and an unpleasant Lower-Class Lout.
  • Sacrificial Lamb: Elsa the milkmaid is introduced solely to establish Dejah as an antagonist.
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Though they're almost identical in every other respect, the real Mark is the quiet, nervous sensitive guy while the Mark in Marwen has the masculine strength and confidence he wishes he had.
  • Shout-Out
  • Socially Awkward Hero: Mark, due to the brain damage and mental trauma he sustained, impede on his abilities to interact with others and makes him socially awkward as a result.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Kurt, Nicol's ex-boyfriend who refuses to respect her wishes to leave her alone.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Literally for the Nazi squad — while dangerous, they also aren't very bright and the ladies regularly bamboozle them. Justified in that they're all in Mark's fantasy, so he'd obviously want the bad guys to be easily-defeated idiots.
  • Trauma Button: The men who attacked him are this for Mark. Even seeing a news report on them sent him into a state of panic.
  • Unflinching Walk: The Marwen ladies have an epic one as they march down the street to the church to save Hoagie from the Nazis while "Addicted to Love" blares in the background.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: The movie takes a lot of liberty with the real Mark Hogencamp's story. For one, he wasn't able to get much of the health care that is shown in the film since the state would not cover it any longer. He left the hospital early because it was beyond his coverage. Mark also lived with a friend and his mother, who also cared for him (she wasn't shown in the film at all). The men who attacked Mark were not actually Neo-Nazis, just thugs (one was black). Mark also had to testify three times (the preliminary hearing, trial and sentencing), never running from the courtroom as a result of the stress. Nicol was already married and had children-there was no abusive boyfriend. Mark consequently never proposed.
    • Also the story of Marwencol in the film is drastically altered in many ways. Dejah Thoris originally was obsessed with Hoagie, even using magic to make him fall in love with her instead of Anna (which fails), she ends up continuing to live in Marwencol and marrying "Giant Mark" (who is basically just Mark himself), and she hasn't been killed off (yet). The story of Hoagie's potential love interest was flipped around for this film (with Wendy in the film given the appearance of Anna, the doll that would become Hoagie's wife after Colleen was removed from the town in the Marwencol story). Hoagie being saved by the girls occurs long after Hoagie arrived in Marwencol, as well as long after several male soldiers showing up (Anna and two of the girls went to save Hoagie while the male soldiers were trying to come up with a plan for the rescue). Dejah's time machine also isn't a DeLorean two-seater like in the film (it being a disassembled VCR Mark had). The previously mention is some of the few changes made to the Marwencol storyline.
  • Wholesome Crossdresser: Mark, who likes women's shoes (particularly high heels) and collects them. Nicol mentions her brother also likes women's shoes, and clothing too. They aren't depicted badly as a result.