In the Realms of the Unreal

Director: Jessica Yu
Year Released: 2003
Rating: 2.0

"Documentary" about outsider artist Henry Darger, who spent his life doing janitorial work and avoiding contact with others only to retreat to isolation where he devoted his life to a true magnum opus, In the Realms of the Unreal. Since few people knew Darger - and those that "knew" him all seem to have conflicting stories - he remains a mystery, so most of the time is spent animating (wrongly, I might add) his paintings, and 'reenacting' the novel visually while using voice over. I sympathize with the problems Yu must have had trying to put this together - even at 75 minutes it's stretched out - but extending the thesis outside of Darger might have given the project some much-needed depth, perhaps placing the artist within the circle of other 'outsiders' and getting some expert opinions on the art (the few who knew of him refute the idea that the lonely man was a schizophrenic, yet the descriptions of him having conversations with himself and remaining 'detached from the world' point towards exactly that: schizophrenia). Bigger questions about being a recluse are also dodged - was Darger's life "wasted" or did his creating this enormous novel 'validate' his existence?