SUMMARY: A family are visited by a mysterious stranger who throws their lives into disarray by pointing out that the wife is secretly a hen.
WHY IT’S HERE: Ukrainian director Igor Kovalyov is perhaps best known for working on Nickolodeon shows such as ‘Rugrats’ and ‘Aaahh!!! Real Monsters’ but his major motivation for this more commercially viable work was to fund his own extraordinarily uncommercial personal projects. ‘Hen His Wife’, one of the director’s earliest shorts, is a comically absurd but tonally bleak domestic drama which uses ludicrous elements to explore familiar melodramatic tropes and deeper psychological implications. The extraordinarily ugly characters are brilliant creations, their graphically muscular or flabbily folded bodies being masterpieces of minute detail. The plot hinges on the patently ridiculous notion that the husband is unaware that his wife, who is obviously a giant hen, is a giant hen! This central premise may have been the inspiration for the ingeniously repetitive ‘Chicken Boo’ segments of 90s TV animation ‘Animaniacs’. Looking for too rigid an explanation of the events that unfold in ‘Hen His Wife’ is pointless but to dismiss it as meaningless is equally pointless. Part of the shorts appeal is its openness to interpretation and the small, recognisable elements we draw meaning from amidst its uninviting world. If for nothing else, the film is worth seeing for the humanoid caterpillar creature that the family keep as a pet, whose ultimate fate is disturbingly ambiguous, like much else in the short.