As we move from 2016 into the new year, Fletcher Powell takes a look at a couple of his favorite movies that deal with transitions and change.
Mark Hogencamp was assaulted outside a bar and left brain-damaged. The world he ultimately created to cope with his trauma and his new life is the subject of a 2010 documentary titled Marwencol. Marwencol is the name of a fictional World War II-era Belgian town that Hogencamp built as a 1/6-scale model, populating the town with dolls representing himself, his neighbors, and various Nazi officers, buxom women, and Steve McQueen.
The movie shows how Hogencamp creates various scenarios for the characters in his town to act out, often involving German attacks, elaborate murders, and bar fights. Not content simply to live in this fantasy world, though, Hogencamp then takes gorgeous, cinematic photos of these events, documenting every occurrence in Marwencol.
But this barely begins to look into the depth of Hogencamp and his story. There are layers upon layers here, and at least one jaw-dropping plot development in the town of Marwencol that causes the entire movie to fold back on itself, like the snake that eats its own tail.
Another film, equally extraordinary, is a 2011 movie from Thailand that deals with the ultimate transition—the passage from life to death. The movie is called Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, and it follows a man who is dying from kidney failure and who is periodically visited by members of his family who have passed on before him. This isn’t some Dickens Christmas Carol-type ghost story, though—Boonmee’s dead wife shows up without any real revelations, and his dead son appears as a hairy, red-eyed ape creature. There’s not exactly a conventional plot, and the film moves at a glacial pace, but it treats life and death in a way that’s not very familiar to Western audiences, and it contains some glorious sequences, including one in a cave that probably symbolizes more than just a cave. It’s a curious movie, but completely engrossing, and, like Marwencol, different from anything you’ve seen before.
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives:
Music: Seu Jorge - "Changes"