In the Realms of the Unreal is a documentary on the life of outsider artist Henry Darger and is currently playing at the Cedar Lee. It is a great doc, with great animation and a great focus. Go catch it before it disappears.

What made this doc so great is the fact that it promptly shows the audience that everything it is going to say is mostly the subject of speculation. No one is even sure on how to pronounce his last name. So the parallels it draws between the life of Henry Darger and his 15,000 page story of a child slave rebellion, while seemingly equivalent, are still obvious supposition.

Darger’s early life had no stability, he was shuttled around and cared for but seemingly never loved. This must have caused him immense pain because his life’s work seems to be his own efforts at healing himself and coming to an understanding of who he is in his life. His artwork is at times visceral and ethereal, just as his story seems at times like the fairy tales he loved as a child and at others like a firsthand account of a Civil War battle.

At first blush you might think Darger is a man with no understanding of his fellow humans, [as is evidenced by an apparent ignorance of female reproductive organs, his little girls have penises] and in a social and cultural sense this might have some validity. But in the spheres of feeling and emotion, our own Realms of the Unreal he seems to be able to evoke rememberances of childhood, innocence, weakness, joy and terror, no matter how deeply hidden.

The film itself is a pastiche of his writings, animated and still versions of his art, and first-hand accounts of the few people who lived near him. It is exactly long enough at 81 minutes, and treats the subject with respect but no real judgment. I want to see it again and will probably get it on DVD.

Here is a better review with good links.