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In the Realms of the Unreal (2003)

Cast: Larry Pine, Larry Pine, Dakota Fanning, more...
Director: Jessica Yu, Jessica Yu
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Rating: Not Rated
Studio: Fox Lorber
Genre: Documentary, Biographies, Art
Running Time: 82 min.
Languages: English
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Award-winning short filmmaker Jessica Yu makes her feature-length debut with In the Realms of the Unreal, a documentary about outsider artist Henry Darger. Born in 1892, Darger lived in Chicago and worked as a janitor for most of his life. When he died in 1972, his landlord found his life's work: The Story of the Vivian Girls, in What is Known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion (often simply referred to as The Realms). A massive, multiple-volume fantasy novel, The Realms also contains nearly 300 illustrations of collages, drawings, and paintings. Rather than interview art scholars and psychologists, Yu chooses to look at Darger's work from the viewpoints of those who knew him. Yu also incorporates animation segments into the documentary, using Darger's original images. In the Realms of the Unreal was shown at the Sundance Film Festival in 2004 as part of the documentary competition. ~ Andrea LeVasseur, All Movie Guide

GreenCine Member Reviews

Don't let me be THIS misunderstood -- by GGoodsell December 31, 2005 - 4:45 PM PST
3 out of 4 members found this review helpful
The life of the mind is very different than the life we lead, this documentary says plainly. Henry Darger led a very solitary existence, orphaned at a very early age and forced into servitude by the Victorian institutions of the day. He became a school janitor and remained one until his forced retirement at the age of 74. He lived in a cramped, one-room apartment and rarely spoke to anyone. But once inside, he would fill books and paint fantastic murals about an alternate reality peopled with warring nations and strange, angelic children called the Vivian Girls. Darger's story is very real and very sad. While hailed a genius of outsider art, it was only after his death that his considerable body of work became known. One wonders ... had Darger tried to share his work with others, would he have been laughed at? Would people point out to him that little girls didn't have penises as many of his pictures show? Would people discount it all as the rantings of a madman? The tragedy of Darger's life would appear to be that his vision could only be appreciated by the distancing brought on by his death. Such is the fate of many artists ...

Impossibly High Standards by SBergfalk November 7, 2005 - 8:21 AM PST
1 out of 2 members found this review helpful
This documentary takes on a difficult task--interpreting the life and work of an extremely anti-social man who invented his own world rather than living in the world around him. What is amazing about the film is Jessica Yu's effort to include some discussion of the art, the man, and the few people Henry Darger interacted with. As a viewer, I was torn between the three views the film endeavors to weave together. Pick one! Clearly, the art Darger created is worth examining, and the documentary would probably be stronger if the filmmaker had narrowed her focus. On the plus side, if you are someone who wants to learn about art and the commitment needed to being an artist, then this documentary will give you impossibly high standards to live up to.

Amazing by Ultranova October 20, 2005 - 3:31 PM PDT
1 out of 3 members found this review helpful
You have never seen anything like this doc about an unknown artist who left a legacy that most "professionals" could only dream of. For all the weekend artists/writers who accumulate piles of work and wonder if it will ever have an impact on anyone. This just shows that the ACT of creating is far more important than the acknowledgement of such by outside forces. Truly inspiring!

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GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 7.02)
103 Votes
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