“Absorbing and exquisite.” –San Francisco Chronicle
From Wednesday-Saturday, May 25-28, at 8 pm in the Walker Cinema, the Walker Art Center presents screenings of director Jessica Yu’s
In the Realms of the Unreal
. The film brings to life reclusive artist Henry Darger’s epic 15,000-page illustrated novel about the exploits of the Vivian Girls, seven angelic sisters who lead a rebellion against godless, child-enslaving men. Featuring the voices of Dakota Fanning (I am Sam, Man on Fire) and Larry Pine (The Royal Tenenbaums, The Ice Storm), the music of Emmy-winning composer Jeff Beal, and the work of a team of animators, this wholly original film tells the story of a hidden universe. The Walker is pleased to bring back this enchanting film, last presented at the 2004 Women with Vision festival on a night that a widespread power outage and thunderstorm prevented a complete screening.
In the Realms of the Unreal explores outsider art from the inside. Eschewing expert opinion, it reflects the uniqueness of its subject, employing vivid animation and experimental elements to immerse us in Darger’s world and all its strange beauty. Brought to life on film, the work reverberates with universal themes: the search for meaning, control, connection, moral direction. Through Darger’s eyes, film reveals this odd man to be Everyman.
Darger lived a virtually friendless existence, but his imaginary life was as exciting and colorful as his real life was tedious. By day, he scrubbed floors, attended Mass, rummaged through garbage cans. By night, he ruled a world in which the forces of innocence and good fought a bloody battle against the forces of treachery and evil. By juxtaposing Henry Darger’s parallel but opposite universes, the film shows how he forged magic out of the bleakest of lives, leaving a legacy that has inspired other artists around the world.
Darger moved through the world virtually unnoticed, and the ultimate meaning of his work remains an enigma. The film begins as a mystery, but ends as a celebration of the power of individual creativity. In the Realms of the Unreal captures the haunting imprint of an extraordinary, ordinary man.
Jessica Yu is a filmmaker based in Los Angeles. She won the 1997 Academy Award for Best Documentary Short for Breathing Lessons: The Life and Work of Mark O’Brien, an intimate portrait of the writer who lived for four decades paralyzed by polio and confined to an iron lung. The film also won over 20 festival awards, including the IDA Achievement Award, the Audience Award at Aspen Shortsfest, and First Prize at the St. Petersburg International Film Festival, since its debut at the Sundance Film Festival. She also won an Emmy and a Cable Ace Award for Best Documentary Director. Yu’s documentary The Living Museum, the award-winning HBO film about an art community in a New York mental institution, premiered at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival.
Tickets to each screening are $8 ($6 Walker members) and are available at walkerart.org/tickets or by calling 612.375.7600.