In the Realms of the Unreal (2005)

In the Realms of the Unreal



Critic Consensus: A fascinating treatment on the life of a reclusive man.

Movie Info

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 … More

Rating: Unrated
Genre: Musical & Performing Arts, Documentary
Directed By:
Written By: Jessica Yu
In Theaters:
On DVD: Jun 21, 2005
Box Office: $0.2M
Wellspring Media - Official Site


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Critic Reviews for In the Realms of the Unreal

All Critics (71) | Top Critics (27)

A stylistic triumph and a sad but also romantic depiction of an artist in his purest state.

Full Review… | May 20, 2005
Orlando Sentinel
Top Critic

The best thing about In the Realms of the Unreal are the sequences in which Darger's drawings, of epic battles and pigtailed heroines, are gently animated -- the pictures brought to life with subtle, fluttering motion.

April 21, 2005
Philadelphia Inquirer
Top Critic

It is an engrossing introduction to the artist and his work.

Full Review… | April 15, 2005
Houston Chronicle
Top Critic


Full Review… | March 4, 2005
Seattle Times
Top Critic

could've been riveting stuff if only its subject was half as interesting as its approach

Full Review… | August 17, 2010
Cinema Writer

The camera is too eager to swim in the artist's sea, but it might've revealed more if it had paused to let our imaginations provide the movement, as Darger's presumably did.

Full Review… | June 3, 2008
Paste Magazine

Audience Reviews for In the Realms of the Unreal

Documentary on Henry Darger, the reclusive Chicago janitor who secretly wrote a slightly insane 15,000 page novel about a child slave rebellion mixing the Civil War, Christianity and children's fantasy stories, illustrated by hundreds of incredibly detailed full size paintings. A solid introduction to Darger, whose utterly unique and slightly disturbing oeuvre has made him the poster boy for the outsider artist.

Greg S

Super Reviewer

A story so bizarre that you'd consider it wildly creative fiction were it not completely true. Jessica Yu documents the incredible secret life of Henry Darger, a janitor who's imaginative works of art and literature were discovered after his death in 1973. Fascinating stuff!

Randy Tippy

Super Reviewer

Henry Darger was a reclusive retired janitor who lived quietly in Chicago. Upon his death, his landlady discovered a side to him that no one suspected. He wrote several journals, detailing his life story, and a novel that takes up 15,000 pages, describing a surreal battle between good and evil, led by seven mythical sisters. He also painted several large murals, illustrating his tale. Strange fellow, indeed. This documentary tries to convey some of the grandeur of his life's work. A little dry for this viewer's taste, and the sheer volume of the work makes it difficult to assess the artistic value. Some of the images are quite bizarre, indicating an unfamiliarity with female anatomy. A mildly interesting look at the work of one who epitomizes outsider art.

Mark Abell
Mark Abell

Super Reviewer

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