This innovative feature-length documentary, directed by Academy Award-winning filmmaker Jessica Yu and produced by Susan West, explores the double life of legendary outsider artist Henry Darger. 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 godless, child-enslaving men. Featuring the voices of Dakota Fanning (I Am Sam) and Larry Pine (The Royal Tenenbaums, The Ice Storm), the music of Emmy-winning composer Jeff Beal and the work of a team of animators, this wholly original film tells the story of a hidden universe.
Darger lived a friendless existence, but his imaginary life was as exciting and colorful as his real life was tedious. By day, he scrubbed floors, attended Mass, rummaged through garbage cans. By night, he ruled a glorious fantasy in which the forces of innocence and good fought a bloody battle against the forces of treachery and evil. By juxtaposing Henry Darger's parallel but opposite universes, the film shows how he forged magic out of the bleakest of lives, leaving a legacy that has inspired other artists around the world.
Darger moved through his era virtually unnoticed, and the ultimate meaning of his work remains an enigma. The film begins as a mystery, but ends as a celebration of the power of individual creativity. In the Realms of the Unreal captures the haunting imprint of an extraordinary, ordinary man.
In the Realms of the Unreal explores outsider art from the inside. Eschewing expert opinion, it reflects the uniqueness of its subject, employing vivid animation and experimental elements to immerse us in Darger's mythology, in all its strange beauty. Brought to life on film, the works reverberate with universal themes: the search for meaning, control, connection, moral direction. Through Darger's eyes, the film reveals this odd man to be Everyman.
In the Realms of the Unreal is a production of Diorama Films, LLC., and a presentation of ITVS. It opened theatrically December 22, 2004, at the Film Forum, 209 West Houston Street, New York City.
Brooke Anderson is Director of the Contemporary Center at the American Folk Art Museum.
Hallie Cohen is Assistant Professor and Chair of the Art Department at Marymount Manhattan College. She is Curator of the exhibition space at the Philoctetes Center.
Aaron Esman is a psychoanalyst and Professor of Psychiatry at Weill Medical College.
Bradley Peterson is a psychoanalyst at the Pediatric Neuropsychiatry and Brain Imaging Research Center at Columbia University.
Theodore Shapiro is a child analyst and Professor of Psychiatry at Weill Medical College.
The evening's event is presented in collaboration with Film Forum, New York's leading nonprofit cinema for independent and repertory cinema. The Philoctetes Center and Film Forum work together on an ongoing seriesf film-related programs.