"Marwencol" and "Dogtooth": Revelation and revolution

Two films opening this weekend will test your ideals and memory, and will require your full attention. Neither is easy to explain in a short blog entry, but I recommend you see both: you'll want to discuss them with others long after you've seen them.

The first is Jeff Malmberg's directorial debut, the beautiful and rich documentary Marwencol, opening Friday at the Lagoon. Its subject, Mark Hogancamp, was attacked outside of a bar in upstate New York ten years ago and spent nine days in a coma and close to two months in the hospital, leaving him with hardly any memory of his previous life. The doctors thought attending therapy would help revive his memory and help him through his healing process, but Mark was unable to afford the sessions and started his own type of therapy: he created Marwencol, a fictional WWII town with dolls that represent his family, friends, co-workers, and even his enemies. The amazing nugget about Marwencol is that the town/village dolls are so carefully put together that they have helped Mark retain his hand-eye coordination, as he's been able to regain his basic everyday life with each "character" impeccably represented. Everyone in Marwencol from Mark (he has his own doll) and other dolls, are all given names, and a reason for being in his Marwencol setting, as Mark continues to add "characters" to his collection weekly. Without giving away too much, the story has a stunning melancholy charm, which comes to fruition in the last third of the film in some of the finest minutes in film this year. Malmberg's lens rarely leaves Hogancamp, but once others are interviewed about Mark, its hard not to see him as a true innovator hard at work at not only art, but life.

In the Greek bizarro drama/comedy/horror film Dogtooth, co-writer/director Yorgos Lanthimos seems to have played a practical joke on us—although we shouldn't be laughing this loud, should we? Dogtooth, finally opening in the Twin Cities Friday at St. Anthony Main, has its share of haters out there (critics and audiences alike), but has also been widely praised as a "true original," and you can see why. The film works as a sinister satire of family living and fear of paranoia. Three children (we're never given their names) live in a confined and strict home with their parents, who've developed an interesting way of raising their children (the vocabulary is beyond strange: the children are told to call a salt shaker a "telephone") and are forbidden to leave the perimeter of the enclosed house. The father educates them differently, considering he's asked a female co-worker to come to their home to satisfy his son's sexual desires, while the two daughters are kept even more shielded. When the female co-worker starts to help the children understand the outside world, the three begin to rebel, to hilarious and disturbing results, including in two separate scenes, a cat and an airplane. I can say confidently that I've never seen anything quite like Dogtooth, and I almost hope I never do again. It's a revelation—and, perhaps, a revolution.

Still from Dogtooth courtesy Kino International

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    Jim Brunzell III's picture
    Jim Brunzell III

    Jim Brunzell III (djguamwins [at] yahoo [dot] com) was born in the 70's, went to school in the 80's, played sports in the 90's, and has been writing on film for the Daily Planet since 2007.  He is also the Festival Director and programmer for the Sound Unseen Music/Film/Art festival in the Twin Cities, lead programmer for the Flyway Film Festival in Pepin and Stockholm WI, the creator of "The Defenders" series at the Trylon microcinema and has been working on a novel since finishing college.  You can follow Jim on Twitter at (@JimBrunzell_3).