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In the Realms of the Unreal - The Mystery of Henry Darger

In the Realms of the Unreal - The Mystery of Henry Darger (2005)



Average Rating: 6.8/10
Reviews Counted: 62
Fresh: 43 | Rotten: 19

A fascinating treatment on the life of a reclusive man.


Average Rating: 7.2/10
Critic Reviews: 22
Fresh: 18 | Rotten: 4

A fascinating treatment on the life of a reclusive man.



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Average Rating: 3.8/5
User Ratings: 3,448

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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


Musical & Performing Arts, Documentary

Jessica Yu

Jun 21, 2005


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Latest News on In the Realms of the Unreal - The Mystery of Henry Darger

May 4, 2007:
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All Critics (71) | Top Critics (27) | Fresh (43) | Rotten (19) | DVD (5)

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

May 20, 2005 Full Review Source: Orlando Sentinel
Orlando Sentinel
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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 IconTop Critic

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

April 15, 2005 Full Review Source: Houston Chronicle
Houston Chronicle
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March 4, 2005 Full Review Source: Seattle Times
Seattle Times
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Yu's decision to bypass the literature about Darger is unfortunate, because it contains so many fascinating details about his source materials, methods, creative problems, and aesthetic development.

February 10, 2005 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

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

August 17, 2010 Full Review Source: Cinema Writer
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.

June 3, 2008 Full Review Source: Paste Magazine | Comment (1)
Paste Magazine

It was Yu's mistaken belief that experts would detract from her intimate approach that gives the film its tenuity, the lingering sense that far too little has been explored.

March 1, 2007 Full Review Source: Film Journal International
Film Journal International

Fascinating, if flawed.

May 27, 2005 Full Review Source: Oregonian

Instead of stooping to armchair psychology, this marvelous movie trusts its fascinating subject matter to spin its own web of mystery and melancholia.

May 19, 2005 Full Review Source: Orlando Weekly
Orlando Weekly

Alternately enlightening and frustrating.

May 13, 2005 Full Review Source: Las Vegas Weekly
Las Vegas Weekly

Suggests only that Darger's inner life was rich but came out in simple and unfocused art. . . . What Darger needs isn't fan fiction, but insightful analysis and criticism.

May 6, 2005
Vue Weekly (Edmonton, Canada)

...a fascinating sort of connect-the-dots that allows us to essentially piece together our very own personalized portrait of this most curious of artists.

April 20, 2005 Full Review Source: Weekly Planet (Tampa, FL)

Fails to shed much light on this odd, reclusive man or his art.

April 15, 2005 Full Review Source: Des Moines Register
Des Moines Register

Walks the line between being just creepy enough to be interesting and being completely disturbing.

April 8, 2005 Full Review Source: Deseret News, Salt Lake City
Deseret News, Salt Lake City

In Darger's apartment, the surreal became real, and a testament to the life's work of a simple man.

April 5, 2005 Full Review Source: Film Threat
Film Threat

Can the secret life of the mind be as worthwhile as the 'real' life a person shares with others in the physical world?

April 1, 2005
Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)

A biographical portrait of a man who spent his life muttering to himself in a language only he could understand.

March 31, 2005
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Jessica Yu's documentary manages the uneasy feat of being both inspiring and disturbing.

March 31, 2005
South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Director Jessica Yu makes the case that it's tough to know much about Darger with certainty.

March 21, 2005 Full Review Source:

By bringing Darger's paintings to life with movement, voices, and sound effects, the audience is allowed to step into "The Realms of the Unreal."

March 14, 2005 Full Review Source:

In the Realms of the Unreal is a post-mortem salute to a prolific artist who lived meekly and took his epic achievement to the grave.

March 11, 2005

Audience Reviews for In the Realms of the Unreal - The Mystery of Henry Darger

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.
November 25, 2012
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!
June 4, 2010
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.
October 10, 2009
Mark Abell

Super Reviewer

[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]
April 8, 2006
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

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