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July 6, 2006
PBS -- P.O.V.
81 Minutes

Artist Henry Darger dealt with his wounds of childhood abandonment and abuse by producing a novel on the exploits of the Vivian Girls.

Jessica Yu directed. She's a goddess. And this documentary isn't bad either. A loner, who seems to have been noticed by exactly six people, dies in 1973 and in his tiny one-room apartment are hundreds of paintings and a 15,000 page novel that Henry Darger was working on. His complete invisibility to society is humorously portrayed in the way that none of the interview subjects can agree on where he sat in church or even how to pronounce his name.

He worked his entire life in Chicago hospitals as a janitor, but would return home to enter perhaps the richest internal life ever captured on film. Excerpts of his book are read while his paintings are animated. His epic revolves around a holy war between god-fearing Catholic little girls and the heathen tribe from another imaginary island. The bad guys are hoping to enslave the perfect little children.

It's not as creepy as it sounds.

The voice-overs are well done by both a man reading the book, and a little girl who is describing Henry's life. He left behind just three photographs.


7.4 Metacritic



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