In the Realms of the Unreal (2004)

Unrated  |   |  Documentary, Biography  |  29 March 2008 (Japan)
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Ratings: 7.3/10 from 1,729 users   Metascore: 74/100
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A documentary on Henry Darger, visionary artist, janitor, and novelist.



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Nominated for 1 Primetime Emmy. Another 2 wins & 5 nominations. See more awards »



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Credited cast:
Henry Darger (voice)
Narrator / Vivian Girls (voice)
Frier McCollister ...
Additional Voice (voice)
Additional Voice (voice)
Janice Hong ...
Additional Voice (voice)
Ruby McCollister ...
Additional Voice (voice)
Paul Robert Langdon ...
Additional Voice (voice)
Mary O'Donnell ...
Herself - Neighbor
Kiyoko Lerner ...
Herself - Landlady
Mary Rooney ...
Herself - Parish Bookkeeper
David Berglund ...
Himself - Neighbor
Regina Waters ...
Herself - Neighbor
Mark Waters ...
Himself - Neighbor
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Henry Darger ...
Himself (photos)


Henry Darger worked all his life in menial jobs in Chicago. Living alone and in poverty, he had no friends or close family. Spending all his off hours alone, he whiled away the hours working on a 15,000 page illustrated novel called The Realms of the Unreal. A stunning amalgam of religious imagery, fantasy, and heroic drama, the work was only discovered after Darger was moved to a hospital during the last days of his life. Darger also wrote journals and an autobiography. The documentary uses interviews with Darger's neighbors and narration of passages from his works, along with his illustrations, to explore the mind and work of Henry Darger. Written by Ken Miller <>

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Release Date:

29 March 2008 (Japan)  »

Also Known As:

In the Realms of the Unreal: The Mystery of Henry Darger  »

Filming Locations:

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$15,477 (USA) (24 December 2004)


$413,708 (USA) (10 June 2005)

Company Credits

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Technical Specs



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Did You Know?


[last lines]
[end title cards]
Title Card: After Darger's death in 1973, the Lerners decided to share their discovery of his work, preserving his room and its contents.
Title Card: Since then, Henry Darger's work has been exhibited and collected worldwide. His art has inspired the creation of paintings, poetry, music, and works in theatre, dance, and opera.
Title Card: The room was dismantled in 2000.
See more »


Flash Pan Hunter (Intro)
Written by Tom Waits
Used by permission of Jalma Music (ASCAP)
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User Reviews

A Strange Documentary About An Even-Stranger Person
5 December 2006 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

This is a very, very strange story and even a different kind of documentary. From what I could see here, scanning the reviews, most of them were not favorable toward this.

Myself, I found it slow in the first but more and more fascinating as it went on. It's just so bizarre, it's hard to know what to think as you watch this. When it was over, I found I was glad I took a chance on this DVD and will watch it again. But - it's not a happy experience.....and it is a bit haunting.

I would just comment on a few things: 1 - I agree that, considering the subject matter and strange character (Henry Darger) whom this is about, this documentary should have been more interesting; 2 - I did not object to the artwork coming to life on occasion. It added badly-needed interest to the presentation. You never quite knew what you were going to see next, and I liked that; 3 - I enjoyed the two main voices, those of Larry Pine and Dakota Fanning. Pine voiced Darger as an adult and Fanning was the narrator and represented the Vivian Girls. Although young for this kind of role and vocabulary, Fanning is an exceptional young actress and seems to handle to everything well. Both did an outstanding job and the two complemented each other nicely, too.

4 - I disagree with those who assumed Darger had no idea the physical difference between men and women, which is why he drew penises on the little girls. Come on - how naive can you be? Everyone - even shut-ins

  • knows the difference, whether one is celibate his/her own life or

not. People see nudity throughout their life, even in the most innocent of places such as statues in public parks, museums, galleries, almost anywhere. He knew. Lord knows why he drew what he drew but let that remain his business. 5 - The more one listens to this account, the more insane Darger appears. I wasn't totally sure of that until he went into his "weather" phase. Holy smokes, this man had problems! It's sad, in a way, and is a prime example of how much an imprint your childhood has on the rest of your life. With a "normal" childhood, with a loving mother and father, would Henry have been a "normal" adult?

Anyway, I found his book - from what Dakota and the others read from it
  • somewhat boring and definitely depressing, to be frank. To me, in

addition to being immense adventure story it is, it was just as much - if not more - simply a long diary of man wrestling with his tortured soul.

Definitely recommended, but know what you're in for.

15 of 18 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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