Henry Darger lived the life of the obscure artist more completely than most of his ilk would find possible. A quiet shadow of a man, he kept to himself all his years, never once divulging any interests to outsiders (except for a strange attention to the weather) and just plugged away at his janitorial jobs. He never had unsuccessful gallery shows, didn't attend art school, and never once railed against a conservative art establishment and philistine buyers who didn't understand what he was trying to do. Nobody even knew he could draw. But after he died in 1973, at the age of 81, and his landlords were cleaning out his apartment, they discovered a lifetime of work: masses of paintings and drawings, stretching up to 10 feet long and often double-sided, and a 15,000-page novel called In the Realms of the Unreal. It was a little bit of a shock.

Jessica Yu's documentary In the Realms of the Unreal is a meditative look at what little we know about Darger's life, and the massive body of art that he left behind, utilizing the barest scraps of primary information available (there are only three known photographs of him) and Darger's own diaries. It wasn't an easy childhood by any stretch of the imagination: Darger's mother died when he was four and his father gave him up for adoption a few years later, dying not long after. Darger was sent to an asylum for "feeble-minded children" in downstate Illinois. After serving in World War I, an experience that he found quite horrible and would haunt his art years later, Darger returned to his hometown of Chicago, where he would spend the rest of his years working janitorial jobs at hospitals and composing his multimedia masterpiece.

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