Thursday, July 2, 2009

A Quiet Life

In The Realms Of The Unreal(2004)Directed By Jessica Yu

"In The Realms Of The Unreal" is a documentary about a hermetic janitor, never married, childless, and an orphan, who worked at the same orphanage he was raised in.
Upon his death at age 82, leaves his landlords and neighbors to discover his life's work of several hundred paintings, some well over twelve feet long, and a fifteen thousand page book(one of the longest novels in history) all revolving around a children's story called "In The Realms Of The Unreal".
Well called more specifically, a 15,143-page fantasy manuscript entitled "The Story of the Vivian Girls, in What is Known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinnian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion"
This is after writing his biography, "The History of My Life", a book that spends 206 pages detailing his early life before veering off into 4,672 pages of fiction about a huge twister called "Sweetie Pie".
Every day he would record what the weather conditions were and compare his findings with the weather man on the radio and television. He kept meticulous journals of even the most mundane activities.
Now Im gonna let wiki take over for a bit with the nuts and bolts, "One day Darger finds, a portrait from the Chicago Daily News from May 9, 1911 -- a five-year-old murder victim, named Elsie Paroubek, who apparently wandered away from her home on April 8 and was kidnapped and strangled.
Her body was found a month later in a sanitary district channel near the screen guards of the powerhouse at Lockport, Illinois.
Miss Paroubek's disappearance and murder, her funeral, and the subsequent investigation, were the subjects of a huge amount of coverage in the Daily News and other papers at the time.
This newspaper photo was part of a growing personal archive of clippings Darger had been gathering. There is no indication that the murder or the news photo and article had any particular significance for Darger, until one day he could not find it among his personal effects.Writing in his journal at the time, he began to process this forfeiture of yet another child, lamenting that "the huge disaster and calamity" of his loss "will never be atoned for," but "shall be avenged to the uttermost limit."
According to his autobiography, Darger believed the photo was among several items that were stolen when his locker at work was broken into. He never found his copy of the photograph again. Because he couldn't remember the exact date of its publication, he couldn't locate it in the newspaper archive.
Instead of doing further research, he began an elaborate series of novenas and other prayers to God for the picture to be returned or replaced. Elsie Paroubek, whose photograph inspired Darger to begin writing "In the Realms of the Unreal". The fictive war that was sparked by Darger's loss of the newspaper photograph of the strangled girl, whose murderer was never found, became Darger's 15,143-page lifetime magnum opus.
He had been working on some version of the novel before this time (he makes reference to an early draft which was also lost or stolen), but now it became an all-consuming creation.) In The Realms of the Unreal, the "assassination of the child labor rebel Annie Aronburg... was the most shocking child murder ever caused by the Glandelinian Government," and was the cause of the war.
Through their sufferings, valiant deeds and exemplary holiness, the Vivian Girls are hoped to be able to help bring about a triumph of Christianity. Darger provided two endings to the story: In one, the Vivian Girls and Christianity are triumphant; in the other, they are defeated and the godless Glandelinians reign.
Darger's human figures were rendered largely by tracing, collage, or photo enlargement from popular magazines and children's books. (Much of the "trash" he collected was old magazines and newspapers, which he clipped for source material.)
Some of his favorite figures were the Coppertone Girl and Little Annie Rooney. He is praised for his natural gift for composition and the brilliant use of color in his watercolors. The images of daring escapes, mighty battles, and painful torture are reminiscent not only of epic films such as Birth of a Nation (which Darger might easily have seen) but of events in Catholic history; the text makes it clear that the child victims are heroic martyrs like the early saints.
One idiosyncratic feature of Darger's artwork is an apparent transgenderism: Characters are often portrayed unclothed or partially clothed, and regardless of ostensible gender, some females have penises.Some feel Darger was unfamiliar with female anatomy(82 years of not just not seeing a women naked, but not understanding the most fundamental things about them), that he meant it as a symbol of power (a chapter of In the Realms of the Unreal includes a description of Darger's belief in female superiority) or that he modeled the girls after images of the infant Jesus"
The book mainly follows the exploits of a group of seven sisters named the Vivian sisters who battle a wicked, "Godless", country of child enslaving men, with the help of a good Catholic nation. Darger was a devout Catholic who attended mass every day. What's fascinates me about Darger, besides his amazing artwork, and bizarre personal life(some in the film even suggest he might have murdered Elsie Paroubek, which would explain his obsession with her picture), but what would his life have been like if he had the Internet. If others had seen his work, dementia or not, his world would have been radically altered. We will never have another Henry Darger, because I don't think anyone doing this much work would be able to contain it all from the world. If only Henry Darger, had a blog.
The film animates some of the paintings together, and Dakota Fanning narrates. The emotional weight of the film comes from knowing such vibrant colors came from someone as nearly alone as a human being could be.
It's A remarkable story, told through beautiful and wondrous art work, and assorted interviews with some who "knew" him.In the last entry in his diary, before his April 1973 death, he wrote: "January 1, 1971. I had a very poor nothing like Christmas.
Never had a good Christmas all my life, nor a good new year, and now....I am very bitter but fortunately not revengeful, though I feel should be how I am...

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