17 April 2005

Review: In the Realms of the Unreal (3/5)

In The Realms of the Unreal

Beautiful, not-as-sad-as-it-could-have-been documentary on the outsider artist Henry Darger. In a previous post, I provided a little of his background. The movie followed his life as it paralleled the events in his 15,000-page book, the creation of which spanned most of that life. In the book, titled The Realms of the Unreal, his paintings and stories follow the exploits of the seven Vivian girls as they battle the evil armies of those who enslave Christian children.

He was, as one of his neighbors puts it, "crazy, but not the normal crazy." The documentary communicates the dedication and time it took to create many of the paintings, but it also shows that obsessive effort in less constructive forms. For example: for over a decade, Darger gathered daily weather reports and compared them with his hourly observations. Also, many pages of the book are dedicated to lengthy lists containing hundreds of character names or detailed casualty counts from the many battles that occur.

Darger knew very few people, so the book became both a document of his life and the purpose of his life. With no connections to society, he created a fictional culture and, as General Darger, a fictional purpose that existed for no one but himself. I still have a problem with the movie's animation scenes--he had a strong compositional sense that is killed by the cut-and-paste CGI--but it's a minor complaint.

[ posted by sstrader on 17 April 2005 at 7:28:35 PM in Cinema ]