Visualizing a Riddle: The Trippy Inquiry of “Albatross Soup”

Visualizing a Riddle: The Trippy Inquiry of “Albatross Soup”
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Short films, like most visual media, rarely involve participation. Albatross Soup, an animated riddle about a man, a gun, and (you guessed it) a bowl of soup, is an exception.

In the film, we listen as more than fifty people attempt to solve a riddle, that has, in one form or another, been around for some time: A man goes into a restaurant and orders a bowl of albatross soup. After he has a spoonful, he shoots himself. Why?

We follow our co-interlocutors down the rabbit hole of tentative guesses and spiraling inquiries, fielded with glee by a cool-voiced narrator. The investigation is visualized with a surreal cartoon slurry that replicates as a stream of consciousness familiar to anyone partial to riddles and guessing games. At some point, all possibilities fold on top of each other, and concrete facts start to feel as solid as a stew.

The film looks like a sunset on acid, with deep purples and red-tide oranges culminating in an appropriately creepy tropical nightmare. Even those familiar with the riddle’s final punchline will find themselves sucked into this animated take on how the human mind scrambles for meaning.

You can watch Albatross Soup here:

Who made this?

Albatross Soup was directed and edited by Winnie Cheung, a Hong Kong-born filmmaker based in Brooklyn. Cheung’s work frequently features collaborations with artists across multiple disciplines and uses illustration, animation, and dance to surreal effect. Her films have screened at Sundance, Fantastic Fest, and Fantasia.

According to her website, Cheung is currently editing Morenita, a genre-mixing experimental feature by Gabriela Ortega and Diana Valencia “that digs into the bridges and barriers of language, womanhood, and ancestral curses.”  She is also writing and developing her own first feature film, The One Who Got Away.

You can follow Cheung’s Vimeo account here. The art direction for Albatross Soup was overseen by New York-based animator/illustrator Masayoshi Nakamura (a.k.a. General Good). You can follow them on Vimeo here.

More Videos Like This

  • Dear Lucas, a dreamy time-travel tale directed and edited by Winnie Cheung
  • Night Falls a short animated by Masayoshi Nakamura for the SYFY Channel late-night programming block TZGZ
  • A happier tale of island solitude: Armed with only a machete and a knife, Xavier Rosset spent most of 2008 alone in the Pacific and filmed the whole thing
  • Want a visual on an Albatross? Here’s a video about how these enormous birds are romantics at heart — and for newcomers to Nat Geo, host Bertie Gregory is a ray of sunshine
  • Animator [JaimeR] makes some of the beautiful and visually repulsive videos on the internet, and his wildly surreal video about two self-cannibalizing love birds feels appropriate
  • Soul of a Scrapyard, a short film edited by Cheung featured on New York Times Op-Docs about Willets Point, aka The Iron Triangle, a shantytown of scrapyards in northeast Queens that is facing the threats of gentrification

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