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

What we’re watching: a visually trippy short film that animates an inquiry into a morbid riddle.
Albatross Soup
By  · Published on May 5th, 2020

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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.

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Meg Shields is the humble farm boy of your dreams and a senior contributor at Film School Rejects. She currently runs three columns at FSR: The Queue, How'd They Do That?, and Horrorscope. She is also a curator for One Perfect Shot and a freelance writer for hire. Meg can be found screaming about John Boorman's 'Excalibur' on Twitter here: @TheWorstNun. (She/Her).