In the Realms of the Unreal

Critics Consensus

A fascinating treatment on the life of a reclusive man.



Total Count: 63


Audience Score

User Ratings: 3,503
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In the Realms of the Unreal Photos

Movie Info

An innovative masterpiece that literally gives wings to one man's singular vision of an imaginary world. Henry Darger lived a reclusive life and died alone in a Catholic mission in 1973. For more than 60 years, he created a massive literary and graphic body of work, including The Realms of the Unreal, an epic, fifteen-thousand-page novel with hundreds of paintings that recounts the wars between nations on an enormous unnamed planet. Darger's keen sense of composition and vivid colors allowed him to create incredibly intense and beautiful illustrations, which are often disturbingly violent. Consciously excluding art experts and psychologists, Yu presents impressions of Darger's work only from the people who knew him, letting the audience make up their own minds about the man. The film cleverly parallels his real life with his fantasies, making the oddness of his fantasy world more accessible.


Larry Pine
as Henry Darger

Critic Reviews for In the Realms of the Unreal

All Critics (63) | Top Critics (22) | Fresh (44) | Rotten (19)

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

    May 20, 2005 | Rating: 4/5
  • 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.

    Apr 21, 2005 | Rating: 3/4
  • It is an engrossing introduction to the artist and his work.

    Apr 15, 2005 | Rating: 3/4
  • Haunting.

    Mar 4, 2005 | Rating: 3/4
  • 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.

    Feb 10, 2005 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…
  • Henry Darger's mind may have been a tough place to live, but In the Realms of the Unreal makes for a stirring visit.

    Feb 10, 2005 | Rating: A- | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for In the Realms of the Unreal

  • Nov 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.
    Greg S Super Reviewer
  • Sep 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.
    Alec B Super Reviewer
  • Feb 15, 2010
    Not terribly enjoyable for me.
    John B Super Reviewer
  • Oct 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.
    Mark A Super Reviewer

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