A man gets off a boat. He walks into a restaurant and orders albatross soup. He takes one sip… pulls out a gun, and shoots himself to death. So…why did he kill himself? Over 50 people have been recorded trying to guess this riddle using only “yes” or “no” questions.
A playful postmortem, Albatross Soup dives deep into the senses, forced to compare the body of a dead man with their own, trying to understand what smell, taste, memory, touch, or texture drove him to suicide. Taking no shame in picking ideas up, only to drop them carelessly, director Winnie Cheung isn’t scared to get stuck and dive in, and exploring each question. Taking each inquisition and running with it, regardless of where it gets to: “Wormholes?” “the albatross is actually him?”, each right or wrong answer is readily explored.
The sound of waves, birds, a gunshot, and screams introduces the tale, the ever-shifting perspective and sinister saccharine visuals reminiscent of the Adventure Time opening sequence (the first place my baby brain goes), or Richard Linklater’s first foray into animation Waking Life, attempting to visualise multiple characters’ dreams and thoughts.
Albatross Soup is a kaleidoscopic exploration of the riddle unravelling as we hear a rapid fire of questions from voices coming from every angle. An all-knowing male God-like voice guides the story by answering “yes” or “no” for each question. “This man isn’t like the president of the United States? There isn’t something important about this man?”, As the depersonalised voices reverberate around, they develop the central unnamed man, the images are formed inspired by each question as the facts of the riddle begin to take hold, only to wander off again and again.
Mesmerising flows leading you to the bottom of a bowl of albatross soup. “Is he married?” “was he crazy?” “is there any paranormal activity?” The discordant sound of the voices emulate a dinner table conversation, as they become familiar, each individuals playful curiosity lends to us learning more about them, interested in how the line of questioning develops rather than the outcome.
Such a psychedelic looking film, the sobering answer is its least trippy aspect and if, like me, you were unaware of the riddles conclusion the realisation is shocking, the satisfaction and ensuing applause of the speakers ‘getting it’ is haunting. The playful animation of Fiona Smyth is animated into a hypnotic, perpetual motion by Masayoshi Nakamura will infect your thinking and outlook even after the film is finished.
Albatross Soup is currently streaming on Vimeo as Staff Pick of the Week. Watch it here.
by Reba Martin
Reba Martin is from Bristol. She’s been obsessed with the Simpsons since before she could walk, and watches it religiously to this day. Her hobbies include planning to go to the cinema, and going to the cinema. A few favourite films are Eraserhead, Ghost World, and Clerks. You look at her movie diary here and she tweets @discorebekah