More in-depth film festival coverage than any other website!
Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About 

Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 29.41%
Average: 0%
Pretty Bad: 17.65%
Total Crap: 2.94%

3 reviews, 16 user ratings

Latest Reviews

On the Rocks by Peter Sobczynski

Spontaneous by Peter Sobczynski

Kajillionaire by Jack Sommersby

Dressed to Kill by Jack Sommersby

Abracadabra (2019) by Jay Seaver

Sword and the Sorcerer, The by Jack Sommersby

Siege of Firebase Gloria, The by Jack Sommersby

Wild Geese II by Jack Sommersby

Trial of the Chicago 7, The by Peter Sobczynski

Way I See It, The by Jack Sommersby

subscribe to this feed

In the Realms of the Unreal
[] Buy posters from this movie
by EricDSnider

"Hermits produce brilliant work, too."
5 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2004 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL: "In the Realms of the Unreal" is the name of the 15,000-page children's fantasy novel written by Chicago janitor Henry Darger, who left it among his things when he died in 1973 at the age of 81. The title is borrowed for Jessica Yu's uncommonly interesting and lovely documentary about Darger and his work.

Darger himself seemed to dwell in an unreal realm, as documented in the other major written work he left behind, his life story. He had a Dickensian childhood, more or less orphaned, sent to a home for "feeble-minded children" (which he doesn't appear to have been) and made to do menial labor on work farms. As an adult, he was reclusive and a devout Catholic. He wanted to be left alone. He never married. The hundreds of paintings he did to accompany his book suggest he had a limited knowledge of the opposite sex: The children are often painted naked, and the little girls have penises.

Coming from other minds, this would be creepy and unsettling. But Yu's interviews with the people who dealt with Darger -- his landlords, his neighbors, and so forth -- reveal a man universally considered innocent and child-like. He was naive, maybe a little feeble-minded after all, and had no prurient interests of any kind, at least not of which he left behind any evidence.

Was he crazy? Probably at least slightly. For 10 years, he kept a detailed journal of the weather, comparing it with the forecasts. He seemed angry that the meteorologists got it wrong so often. This is not the behavior of a non-crazy person.

What makes the film so fascinating is its dual stories: one, of Darger himself, and two, of his "In the Realms of the Unreal" novel. His colorful paintings are animated a bit to give them life and whimsy, and the story itself is a simple, charming piece about a band of seven little girls who lead a fight against an evil warlike nation.

It parallels his real life, too, which gives it poignancy. Did Darger miss his own lost childhood and write this story as a means of recapturing it? It would appear so, though Yu takes the interesting tack of NOT interviewing any psychologists or experts. This is refreshing, as it allows Darger and his work to remain pure, untainted by analysis or dissection. (This is a man who wrote thousands of pages with no intention of anyone ever reading them, much less having them put under a microscope.) He was child-like, his writing was unpolished and quaint, and both are preserved in this gratifying, poignant documentary.

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 01/22/04 18:03:59
[printer] printer-friendly format  
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Vancouver Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Vancouver Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Palm Springs Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Palm Springs Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

4/27/10 brian The artistic autistic. Brilliant approach to telling the story of a singular human being. 5 stars
8/17/06 Mary Beth filmmaker not allowed to explore possible criminality of Darger 4 stars
11/12/05 jennifer Beauitiful film 5 stars
8/26/05 tatum Haunting, fascinating documentary 5 stars
8/04/05 ted hood it was interesting 4 stars
1/31/05 sully to much animation,Darger's artwork can stand on it's own 5 stars
1/28/05 tomb beautiful film. Spectacular animation by kara vallo makes the film unique and amazing. 5 stars
10/11/04 Emily astonishingly beautiful and compelling 5 stars
4/14/04 Chung creepy story bout an unrealized pedophile not a visionary 4 stars
3/26/04 Tom M. Liston A mesmerizing account of autistic innocence. Wonderful! 5 stars
2/17/04 Linda Wu beautiful film 5 stars
2/05/04 tmp great movie 5 stars
2/03/04 TK Jessica Yu and Kara Vallow transform Darger's work through animation in a respectful and or 4 stars
1/28/04 doug animation by kara vallow is sublime 5 stars
1/26/04 janey beautiful and amazing 5 stars
1/26/04 Dave wreaks of B Grade attempt at second rate script by less than adequate writer 1 stars
Note: Duplicate, 'planted,' or other obviously improper comments
will be deleted at our discretion. So don't bother posting 'em. Thanks!
Your Name:
Your Comments:
Your Location: (state/province/country)
Your Rating:

Discuss this movie in our forum

  22-Dec-2004 (NR)



Directed by
  Jessica Yu

Written by


Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About Australia's Largest Movie Review Database.
Privacy Policy | HBS Inc. | |   

All data and site design copyright 1997-2017, HBS Entertainment, Inc.
Search for
reviews features movie title writer/director/cast