ALBATROSS SOUP is a short, animated film written and directed by Winnie Cheung, a Brooklyn based filmmaker known for incorporating illustration, animation, and dance to create artistic films. The story is a lateral thinking puzzle that has been around for many years. I’ve heard different versions of this story my entire life, but I don’t remember where or when I first heard it. The voices of over fifty people were recorded asking questions trying to guess the answer to the riddle, while colorful, psychedelic, cartoons recount the events that led to the man killing himself. The narrator guides the story and answers only “yes” or “no” to the questions being asked by the people attempting to solve the riddle.
ALBATROSS SOUP is a rather gruesome riddle that tells the tale of a man who walked off a boat and into a restaurant where he ordered albatross soup. He took one bite of the soup and then pulled out a gun and killed himself. The riddle asks the seemingly simple question, “Why did the man kill himself?” Immediately, the fifty people who were recorded for the short begin asking questions about the man to try and figure out why he might have wanted to kill himself. The questions are asked at a rapid-fire pace, while trippy animation shows the story playing out. It is determined that the boat the man arrived on was a rescue boat and the man had been stranded on an island. Apparently, there were other people on the island with him and he was married.
Questions are asked about the man’s mental state and if he killed his wife as the animation morphs from nightmarish scenes of the man trying to escape things like flying eyes to kaleidoscopic images. By answering simply “yes” or “no” the narrator acknowledges that the man wasn’t crazy, and he didn’t kill his wife. As the animation shows the man enduring a fiery, hellish sequence, there are questions asked about the albatross symbolizing a burden that is weighing him down or guilt. The questioners discover that eating the albatross soup triggered a memory for the man, although he had never eaten albatross before. The fact that the voices asking questions are so different and distinct makes ALBATROSS SOUP more intriguing.
Finally, someone asks if the man’s wife was made into a soup and the narrator eerily answers, “Yes,” while voices in the background gasp and say things like, “Oh My God,” and “What the fuck?” Vividly colored cartoon images depict a woman transforming into a skeleton and falling apart until only a bowl of soup remains. So, the man and his wife were passengers on a yacht who became shipwrecked on an island with a group of people. Everyone was starving and the man’s wife became ill and died. The people made a soup from the man’s wife, but they told him it was albatross soup. After being rescued, the man has guilt he still needs to deal with, so he goes to the restaurant and orders albatross soup. When he tastes the delicious albatross soup, his horrible suspicions are confirmed. The soup he and everyone else ate on the island was made from his dead wife. He could not live with the guilt, so he shot himself. This is the answer to the dark lateral thinking puzzle of ALBATROSS SOUP.
Writer/director Winnie Cheung has taken a puzzle that has been around for years and created a uniquely modern version of it using vibrant, multi-colored, mind-bending animation. The use of distinctive voices of fifty people asking questions at an insane pace while the characters metamorphose into strange and terrifying things makes ALBATROSS SOUP a darkly brilliant and compelling short film. ALBATROSS SOUP will be unleashed on Vimeo May 1st.