Marwencol   

by director Jeff Malmberg

It's interesting to me how much Marwencol has evolved over time. In the four years it took to make the film, it went from a personal short film project to a feature film playing in theaters for an audience.

I first saw Mark Hogancamp's photographs in 2005 in the pages of Esopus magazine. A few minutes inside Mark's world of Marwencol were all it took—I had to know more. I've always been fascinated by the artistic process and here was someone whose process (due to some tragic circumstances) was like no one else's in the world. I'd never directed anything before and had no financial backing but my desire to understand Mark and his world trumped all that.

I remember when I first started shooting Mark—by myself, with borrowed equipment, entirely unsure of what I was doing. The goal was for me to get to know this man and turn the footage into some sort of short film for my own education and enjoyment. The thought of a feature film coming out of the experience would have been absurd to me at that point.

As I began getting to know Mark more deeply and the footage started piling up I realized that whatever it was I was doing now wasn't really just for me anymore but was also for Mark. We had become friends and I wanted to point out a few things to him—his strength, how far he'd come—that maybe he wasn't able to see for himself at that time. I began to view my process as portrait work. He was "sitting" for me and I was painting what I saw. When I was done I would show him what I had painted (how I saw him) and that would be that. This mindset lasted for a long time. Mark would talk and I would listen and slowly we began the long trip inside his head. It was the most fascinating journey I've ever been on. And I managed to film it all.

Only when I got back to the "edit room" (in this case my bedroom) did I realize that this journey I had just gone on with Mark could be turned into an actual feature film for an audience to enjoy. I could shape the material in such a way that an audience could have the same experience I had getting to know Mark. Something that had taught me so much and Mark so much could now be meaningful to an audience as well.

It sounds a little silly writing it now—the idea that I never realized I was making a movie until I had finished shooting it. But it’s the truth and there’s a purity there that I hope I take with me the next time some aspect of life captures my whole attention and I have no choice but to grab a camera and start asking questions.

In the meantime I hope you enjoy this film.

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