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October 27, 2005

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

realms.jpg This innovative documentary explores the parallel lives of legendary outsider artist Henry Darger...a reclusive janitor by day, visionary artist by night. Darger's 15,000 page novel details the exploits of the Vivian Girls, seven angelic sisters who lead a rebellion against a child-enslaving army. The film delves deep into the parallel life of Darger, really putting that 'no man is an island' theory to the test. What I find most amazing is that while he was living not a single soul would know about any of the work that Darger created. In the Realms of the Unreal features the voices of Dakota Fanning (I Am Sam, War of the Worlds) as the narrator and Larry Pine (The Royal Tenenbaums, The Ice Storm) as the voice of Darger, along with a team of animators that really help to bring viewers into the world of Darger's artwork and life. With so little known about Darger himself, Academy Award-winning filmmaker Jessica Yu approaches the story as part narrative, part fantasy, and overall as documentary, putting together a wholly original film that tells the story of a hidden universe. Since his death in 1973, Henry Darger's work has been exhibited and collected worldwide. His art has inspired paintings, poetry, music, and works in theatre, dance, and opera. - Written by Jay, read more of his reviews at

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Henry Darger was a man apart from the world in which he lived. He built his own realities, alone in his apartment, meticulously if somewhat incoherently documenting the fantastic visions that drove his life far more then his job, his family, his friends or his environment ever could. Often the implications of his works were either darkly dire or suggesting of salvation, influenced by his religious zeal.

While it does make for a fascinating portrait, Darger was quite simply a weird guy. Some of his work struck me as particularly disturbed, and I felt the documentary rather dragged on in wonderland, like Darger's project itself.

I also feel that Darger never intended to share his visions with the world, and that in their newfound fame, rather dismissed Darger's intentions so that those who were in possession of his art after his death could reap the benefits of his life.

Posted by: MeL at November 9, 2005 5:28 AM
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