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Tormenting The Hen (free)

  • Vilas Hall 821 University Avenue Madison, WI, 53706 United States (map)

Theodore Collatos' 2017 film Tormenting The Hen is a stunning combination of stalker horror, political critique, and romantic drama. The plot centers around Claire (Dameka Hayes), a playwright whose two-man play puts a Jewish man and a black man in conversation about their oppression, and her partner Monica (Carolina Monnerat), a Brazilian environmental engineer who studies trees, as the couple go off to stay at a remote artist retreat. When Mutty (Matthew Shaw), an Iraq War veteran with PTSD and autism who takes care of the grounds, reveals that the house they're renting used to be a chicken coop, the audience quickly realizes who the titular hens are. The scenes in which Claire politely (for a while) battles her actors as the two men try to impose themselves on her script are compelling for the anger just barely concealed beneath her face. Meanwhile, Monica is harassed by Mutty, who mows the lawn incessantly. These conflicts intertwine with the couple's own relationship issues to set up the collapse of this isolated world.

Almost the entire film is shot in beautifully rendered close-ups, showing these fully characterized humans in all their awkward glory. The movie is constantly commenting on itself, both visually and in its dialogue. If in one scene there is an aggressive fight, in the next, there are bruises. With its chaotic end, Tormenting The Hen is a series of personal and sociological failings set in test tube-like isolation, as we watch the individuals confront sociological others, and find themselves become othered. While the film doesn't rely on cliches, we are still given a sense of international issues that bear down personally on the way people live their everyday lives. —Reid Kurkerewicz