In the Realms of the Unreal - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

In the Realms of the Unreal Reviews

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366weirdmovies
Super Reviewer
November 25, 2012
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.
flixsterman
Super Reviewer
January 18, 2009
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!
Super Reviewer
October 10, 2009
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.
Harlequin68
Super Reviewer
April 8, 2006
[font=Century Gothic]"In the Realms of the Unreal" is a documentary about Henry Darger, a retired janitor and loner in Chicago. When he died at the age of 81 in 1973, about 15,000 pages that he had written in journals and a novel were discovered. Darger also created a good amount of artwork to accompany his novel about an almost endless war with a group of girls caught in the middle. [/font]
[font=Century Gothic][/font]
[font=Century Gothic]The documentary contains interviews with those closest to Darger who try to give some sort of insight into his inner life. It also has animated certain parts of his art in trying to illustrate events from Darger's life and the narrative of his novel. My own amateur opinion is that Darger suffered from arrested development. He was robbed of his own childhood when he spent seven years in an asylum and thus, as an adult, sought to recreate a fantasy childhood in its stead.[/font]
Super Reviewer
½ February 15, 2010
Not terribly enjoyable for me.
Super Reviewer
September 26, 2012
While a lot of academic talking heads analyzing Darger's work might have yielded some interesting discussion . . . his writing and paintings stand in place beyond normal criticism and analysis. They are just as enigmatic as their creator, but that is why they are so fascinating.
Super Reviewer
½ October 1, 2008
As much as I can see the point of directing a movie about Darger in line wit his very unique and inapproachable style of writing and painting, I would have prefered a much more professional and in-depth analyzation of his life and work. While this documentary may be quite appealing visually and in terms of editing it is more of a long flickering snapshot of Darger's strange wanderings, but no profound portrait of his life.
Super Reviewer
February 13, 2008
Interesting doc that looks into Henry Darger's amazing artwork. After it was done I thought I would have like to learn more about him and his art, but it works as a film to peak your interest.
August 18, 2012
I was positively mesmerized for the entire 1 hour and 22 minutes. What a ride--an awesome, puzzling, fascinating ride--through someone's interior life. Darger was/is an enigma, but he was clearly incredibly gifted as an artist. Yu's tone and fanciful style was perfect for telling Darger's unusual story and presenting his fascinating writing.
½ September 21, 2011
Definitely an interesting example of choosing an approach that fits a subject...Realms is a sad, artful, and psychedelic biography.
½ January 12, 2010
One of the best a rarest documentary subjects I've seen. Very sad.. a little creepy but very interesting! If you like fantasy or literature, and/or have never heard of Outsider Art, or just love a good story about a rare human being...This doc is for you!
February 4, 2011
A unique Jessica Yu documentary about a unique man, Henry Darger. This reclusive, friendless, janitor and dreamer created a Homerian epic unto himself, perhaps the longest novel in history. At 15,000 pages, it chronicles the seven Vivian sisters who protect androgynous children from enslavement by evil militaristic forces. This documentary, a near-epic five years in the making, challenges you to take the perspective of Darden, who died in 1973. His cartoons, tastefully animated by Yu, appear at desktop level in his one-room Chicago living space, while the precocious voice of Dakota Fanning chirps narratives in your ears. With so little data or human testimonials on Darger, any lesser treatment would have been displeasingly far-fetched. Yu took an ingenious approach to respectfully study an enigmatic man who, although poor and shunned in life, produced acclaimed work now worth millions. AfroPixFlix, a respecter of all dreamer-janitors, forks it up 4 unreel times.
½ September 17, 2010
The first of a string of films about art that I've watched, this time involving what is known as "outsider art." Apparently this type of art is created without exposure and/or any type of intent response to the already established art modes of the day - essentially, art purely as a form of self-expression. Henry Darger, the subject of this film, is a man who largely spent his time alone in his little room on Webster Avenue. From 1930 to his death in 1973, he had created a world called "The Realms of the Unreal" in which all sorts of fantastic things took place.

Of course, you may be thinking that, well, any idiot can go and create a fantasy land. The thing is, these Realms of the Unreal covered 15,145 pages and reams of scroll paper in intricately designed images of children clipped out of newspapers, books, etc.

Strangely enough, I was reminded of The Wizard of Oz when I saw the stylistic drawings that he had compiled and arranged. The fantastic, colorful kingdoms as well as the battles between them, the flying creatures and the armies of children - much of it reminded me of L. Frank Baum's childlike creations. Now, I doubt that Darger gave a flying monkey's butt about Oz since he was busy doing his own thing for the most part... I'm just saying. The pictures he used he painstakingly cut out of newspapers, books, anything he could get his hands on. I am willing to bet he used an Oz book here and there for that purpose.

The fact that Henry Darger never shared this with anyone, didn't want anyone to know about his private imaginative life was to be expected. Part of me thinks that he created it all to spite the bullshit outside world. It was, after all, pretty rude to him with the infantile methods of the day to deal with "problem children." To know that he was so successfully creative, and that his work became known enough in the end that I could watch this movie, makes me happy. I now have my concrete evidence that even the most boring and overlooked people in life can still blow us all away, and that really, any one of us could harbor an epic tale of struggle and beauty tucked in our brains ready to be generated onto paper. That's the way I see it.

Although this documentary does not send me in such a way that I would hail it as an award winner, it is a great watch for anyone interested in art, children's literature, even psychology. Many people on various message boards have speculated as to whether or not Darger was autistic, seeing as he talked to himself, made random noises in class that he didn't seem to want to stop, etc etc. It certainly would explain his capacity to write such a lengthy tale so thoroughly. It doesn't really matter now, as he appeared by all accounts someone who could take care of himself. Funny how some people use the idea of children as a symbol for all that is good and right and innocent in the world (when at times they can be just as vicious as any adult). I believe that he did what he needed to do in this life. The rest of us just need to look closer.
½ June 15, 2010
Definitely intriguing. It hits certain nerves of mine pertaining to creativity and its purposes in a persons life. I'm not sure if too much insight is read into the subject, or not enough. Worth checking out.
½ March 26, 2010
Poor guy; he was so lonely. As an only child I can relate to the way Darger had to create his own universe, personalities in two-dimensional drawings, the journals kept to make meaning.
½ November 10, 2009
It focuses on a fascinating subject but uses so many cliche PBS documentary techniques that it distracted from the point. It was also comical the way they set up the different view points such as the mispronunciation of his name, they did something similar several times and each time it was just ridiculous. The animated segments were also funny because of the voices that don't sound like people in a regular voice but a character voice, mixed with the strange dialog. The book reminds me of In Search of Lost Time. Its a book that lots of people know about and few have read. (I admit I have read neither so far) They are both absurdly long, they both are books about the authors mind and memory changing the events of the past. Both authors were obsessive recluses and they both explored a view of sexuality that was ignored at the time. Darger's view which was that of the mentally handicapped is a view that still isn't explored much.
June 19, 2009
Imaginative documentary filmmaking that gets you interested in even off putting or droll subject matters like the life of a famed Artist.
½ April 8, 2009
Spooky shit seeing Darger's art come to life. I kind of wish they hadn't animated it. It definitely shook me up.
½ December 7, 2008
I wonder what strange wonderful stories are being made up right now by people no one will ever know.
½ February 10, 2008
This is a great example that "Reality DOES Surpass Fiction" any fucking day... will all of Henry Darger's work ever be available? I've only found very limited material... the style made me a bit dizzy at times
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