21 Ke (21 Grams)
Sun’s animated film 21 Ke (21 Grams) is based on the 1907 research by the American physician Dr. Duncan MacDougall who claimed the measured weight of the human soul to be twenty-one grams. Sun used this episode—which was not fully recognized by the scientific community—as a point of departure for his depiction of a dystopian world in which the narration of history and notion of time are interrupted. Because each frame was drawn by hand with crayon, it took Sun and his animation studio team a few years to complete this thirty-minute film of a surreal journey through mysterious cities, plagues of mosquitoes, broken statues, cawing ravens, waving flags, and flooded graveyards. Here, an ever-present man in a top hat makes obscure, cryptic references in scenarios that include the national anthem, factories belching soot into the threatening sky, and soaring planes dropping leaflets to earth. Rather than encouraging specific interpretations, 21 Ke is a visual commentary that asks essential questions of human existence: Who we are? What have we done? Where are we heading?