USA, 81 min.
In the Realms of the Unreal is the title of Henry Darger’s 15,000-page illustrated novel, a bizarre epic fantasy about a great war between the ferocious Vivian Girls and the Glandelinians who want to enslave them. It was discovered, along with mountains of other artwork and writings, after Darger, a lifelong recluse, died in a Catholic poorhouse in 1973. He has become one of the art world’s great mysteries, and something of a cottage industry has sprung up around his work. But this is the first movie about Darger. Oscar winner Jessica Yu (Breathing Lessons, 1996) has created a gorgeous homage to this strange and disturbing work, merging interviews with people who knew him, dramatic readings of his writings—his novel read by young Dakota Fanning, currently starring in Man on Fire with Denzel Washington, and his autobiography read by Larry Pine—and in a striking, bold move, animated sequences that bring his drawings and paintings to life. Darger’s life and art illuminate each other as never before.