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

59 customer reviews

Additional DVD options Edition Discs
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(Jun 21, 2005)
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Editorial Reviews

Henry Darger, an elderly recluse, spent his childhood in Illinois's asylum for feeble-minded children and his adulthood working as a janitor. He lived a quiet, nearly solitary existence, but his imaginary life was exciting, colorful and sexually provocative. When he died in Chicago in 1973, his landlady discovered in his room 300 paintings, some over 10 feet long, and a 15,000-page illustrated novel (The Realms of the Unreal), which told the epic story of the virtuous Vivian Girls leading a child slave revolt against the evil Glandelinians. Featuring Dakota Fanning (Hide and Seek) and Larry Pine (The Royal Tenenbaums) as narrators and imaginative animation of Darger's work, Oscar® winner Jessica Yu (Breathing Lessons) brings to life one of the twentieth century's greatest self-taught artists.

Special Features

  • Photo gallery
  • Storyboards
  • Filmographies
  • Trailer gallery
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Interview with Jessica Yu

Product Details

  • Actors: Henry Darger, Dakota Fanning, Larry Pine, Frier McCollister, Wally Wingert
  • Directors: Jessica Yu
  • Writers: Henry Darger, Jessica Yu
  • Producers: Jessica Yu, Cara Mertes, Ellin Baumel, Joan Huang, Kara Vallow
  • Format: Color, Dolby, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Fox Lorber
  • DVD Release Date: June 21, 2005
  • Run Time: 81 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)
  • Domestic Shipping: Currently, item can be shipped only within the U.S. and to APO/FPO addresses. For APO/FPO shipments, please check with the manufacturer regarding warranty and support issues.
  • International Shipping: This item can be shipped to over 75 destinations outside of the U.S. Learn More
  • ASIN: B00094ARX2
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #73,750 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "In the Realms of the Unreal: The Mystery of Henry Darger" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 32 people found the following review helpful By mirasreviews HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 23, 2005
Format: DVD
"In the Realms of the Unreal" explores the life and work of Henry Darger, a reclusive Chicago janitor who died in 1973, leaving behind 30,000 pages of writings and hundreds of pieces of artwork which no one knew existed while he lived. Director Jessica Yu approaches Darger's story from three points of view: that of Henry, himself, which he recorded in an autobiography; how those who knew him saw Henry; and the story told in Henry's magnum opus, a 15,000-page novel, laboriously entitled "The Story of the Vivian Girls, in What is known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinnian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion".

Larry Pine provides Henry's voice, as he narrates his Dickensonian childhood and youth, thorough an adulthood of self-imposed isolation and struggles with faith, to this reluctant retirement. Luckily, his autobiography is frank, because Henry avoided interaction with people and spent every spare moment in his room creating the universe of his novel. Interviews with neighbors, landlords, and acquaintances allow us to see Henry as others did. As Henry's life unfolds, his novel, which he began in 1909 at the age of 17, progresses. The book is about a war between the Christian nation of Abbieannia and the land of Glandelinia, where children are enslaved. The heroes are the 7 cheeky, brave, and saint-like Vivian girl princesses, who lead the child slave rebellion. The novel is narrated by Dakota Fanning. And animators have brought Darger's fascinating illustrations to life in stunning visuals.

Jessica Yu is to be commended for encouraging viewers to come to their own conclusions about Henry Darger. The vibrancy, overwhelming innocence, and creativity of Darger's artwork has made it valuable today.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Mona Pierpaoli on May 22, 2005
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Within Yu's invigorating movie we take an extremely intense and magical trip into the litte-known art of Henry Darger. In The Realms of The Unreal introduces us to the brooding and often horrific mind of Henry Darger which is brought to life by amazing voice actors such as Dakota Fanning and Larry Pine.

Yu's treatment of Henry's art is just as sensitive (and engrossing) as her treatment of his art. The surreal dream-like landscapes that Henry Darger created in his huge novel are animated perfectly by Yu. Birds streak across technicolor skies while the children of Albeannia fight the evil Glandelinians in startling motion.

Never before has Darger's life and art been so sensitively told, and I highly suggest this movie to anyone interested in art of any kind. Darger's work is now imitated by thousands of artists across the world and his subversive and disturbing imagery is entirely unqiue and very exciting to see. Not only does Yu truly do justice to this art (she shows at least half of Darger's work) but she uses it to tell the heartbreaking story of a man who only wanted a person to love.

Yu has created a truly great movie and it is, most definitely, a must buy.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By SORE EYES on March 1, 2008
Format: DVD
"In the Realms of the Unreal" is the story of Henry Darger, a janitor who lived a quiet but troubled existence in Chicago. Suffering over the death of his parents, the adoption of his sister, and years in homes for unwanted children, Henry spends his adult life sequestered in a make-believe one room world trying to work out the pain of his childhood through art.

After Henry is moved to a nursing home in the 1970's, his neighbors find his art work and are amazed at Henry's rich imaginary life. His room, drawings and novels are preserved in their original state until 2000. The film tells the story of Henry Darger's life from three points of view-his neighbors, his own words as found in his novel, and the voice of a child who narrates from a omnipresent point of view.

Henry's novels and art are obsessed with themes of justice-particularly for children, theology, and family. Wars are fought to end child slavery. "General" Henry Darger is his own hero, enlisted for the cause because he is a "known defender of children". In real life, Henry prayed, often going to mass several times a day, begging God for an adopted child. The Catholic Charities turn down Henry's application for adoption. His rage and pain are turned to the page where Henry enlists the "General" to the other side to defeat the Christian armies. Eventually the "General" becomes afraid of hell and becomes a defender of the Christian faith again. Henry resigns himself to a life of quiet desperation and poverty in his old age. He even denies himself the dog he so desperately wants because sadly, he does not think he can afford the five dollars a month upkeep. In Henry's life, the paint and pencil and scrap paper found in dumpsters are the only refuge of fairness.
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Format: DVD
I realized while watching this film that I first heard of Henry Darger only a few blocks from where he lived and worshipped. I had taken my daughter to guitar lessons at the former location of the Old Town School of Folk Music, about three blocks south from the address listed as Darger's address on the letter in the film he wrote expressing sorrow over his friend's death. The church at which he worshipped is only a few blocks west of that address. I write this only a few blocks from St. Joseph's Hospital, where Darger worked as a janitor for many years. All of this brings his story home to me in a particularly poignant way. My neighborhood was also his.

Darger is, of course, one of the best known and most celebrated outsider artists, the author of a staggeringly large illustrated novel IN THE REALMS OF THE UNREAL, about a war between Christian and anti-Christian forces in a make believe land. The most compelling part of Darger's story is that he was completely untrained as an artist and writer and that except for a single friend was a lifelong recluse. His neighbors and the few who knew him elsewhere had no idea that he was the author of a 15,000 page illustrated novel.

The filmmaker made several interesting decisions in making the documentary, all of which I think were done successfully. No critics or experts or outside commentators were employed. All interviews were with people who knew Darger, including the landlady who helped preserve Darger's room after realizing what he had achieved there. There are actors who portray Darger and who read passages from Darger's work, but no art critics. The narration is by the then very young Dakota Fanning, appropriate given Darger's fascination with young girls.
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