The film opens on the 1/6th scale "Marwencol," a town of dolls created by Mark Hogancamp. He stages an elaborate World War II story line in the town, shooting photos of it as he goes. The film explains that this is his way of dealing with the trauma in his life: in 2000, five men beat him almost to death outside a bar. This appears to have been because he mentioned that he liked to wear women's shoes. As he put it, "they beat every memory I ever had right out of my head:" all he knows of his life before the incident is from photos, illustrations, and what people tell him. His extensive photographic work of Marwencol was eventually noticed by a local photographer, and the film follows him up to his first gallery display. His work has been displayed extensively since.
Hogancamp is a strange guy, although he's doing well all things considered. The movie takes you into his world (both Marwencol and his head) for an hour and a half.
The big take-away quote for me came from Tod Lippy, editor of Esopus Magazine: "There's one major difference I found immediately between Mark's work and a lot of other contemporary art work that I look at and see and like for that matter, that is particularly when you're using dolls, or some kind of, ... you're rephotographing something, there's generally a very strong sense of irony in the work, there's a distance, and it's kind of a little wink-winky, like 'I'm photographing dolls, isn't that ...' you know, funny, or subversive, or clever, or whatever. And I just, the thing that struck me immediately about Mark's work is that there's no irony in it ..." Hogancamp is aware of the distinction between his created world and the real world, although sometimes I think it may get a bit blurred for him with naming all his characters after people he knows in the real world. But the point is, while Marwencol is a created thing, it's also very serious for him and that truly does bring a very different tone to the pictures.