Movie Recommendation- In the Realms of the Unreal
IN THE REALMS OF THE UNREAL (2004)
It’s common to ask an artist – be they filmmaker, writer, musician, painter, whatever – what her or his influences are. They almost always have an answer at the ready too. That’s because they are, of course, fans of art as much as they artist. But it’s also because they exist within the world of art. They know others who practice in the same medium. They understand what people, past and present, it is fashionable to appreciate. Influence is a very important, instructive thing for an artist. But, in other ways, it taints them. Perhaps that’s why the idea of “outsider art” is so appealing. Henry Darger was, by most any definition, an outsider artist. He lived his entire long, lonely life working menial jobs and, in his spare time, creating vast worlds and stories. Director Jessica Yu, in her film In the Realms of the Unreal, documents these things he left behind when he died in 1973 at the age of 81. Her movie is also about Darger himself, to some extent. But it’s these works that define him, mostly due to the fact that almost no one knew they existed until after he was gone. And so Yu employs panning shots of the drawings and paintings he made along with narration from the over 15,000 page manuscript he left behind. The novel is called The Story of the Vivian Girls, in What Is known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion and his watercolors and drawings illustrate it. The tale itself changes pace and tone throughout its telling as it was written over the course of much of Darger’s later life. Still, what it reveals about the man who created it, as well as what Yu reveals about the art itself is enveloping and beautifully confounding. Darger may not have been hip enough to articulate his inspirations but his own influence will live on for generations.