A friend of mine sent me this link to a website about a unique imaginary world that involves dolls, including a few Barbies, I think. As I first glanced at the site, it seemed to be as if Quentin Tarantino, fresh off Inglorious Basterds, had directed a remake of the British comedy show Allo!Allo!. A few minutes more and the site got even stranger and much more interesting.
Marwencol is a fictitious Belgian town that exists in the imagination, and in the backyard as a 1/6th scale model, of Mark Hogancamp. A lot of the dolls (or action figures, if, like me, you look at them in hobby stores and vaguely think about buying them) are the highly realistic and well-equipped World War Two two soldiers made by companies like Dragon .
The strange and poignant thing about the creator of Marwencol website is that he sustained brain-damaging injuries after being beaten into a coma by fine men outside a bar. Mark's project became, as the website puts it, therapy. "Playing in the town and photographing the action helped Mark to recover his hand-eye coordination and deal with the psychic wounds from the attack. Through his homemade therapy, Mark was able to begin the long journey back into the "real world", both physically and emotionally - something he continues to struggle with today."
Spend a little time visiting this site and you see that the world of Marwencol is a kind of oasis where people can find acceptance and even love.
However, it is a fragile world, threatened by Nazis who lurk on its fringes, and who possibly represent the violence and brutality Mark experienced first hand.
The Marwencol website is a wonderful tribute to how imagination and creativity can be powerful tools to recovery from violence and trauma. There is a documentary film, "Marwencol", directed by Jeff Malmberg, which I'm hoping to catch at some point.