Johannes Grenzfurthner’s Masking Threshold is one of the least pleasant viewing experiences I’ve had in a long time. Don’t mistake this for me saying that it’s a bad film, though… it’s inventive, unique, and clever. It’s a truly singular vision. But that vision is not an easy one to endure. In fact, this found footage fanatic would argue that it’s probably one of the best example of the POV filmmaking methodology I’ve ever seen, a film that is truly inseparable from the filmmaking style and couldn’t be done any other way without losing serious effectiveness. However, it is deliberately paced, methodical, and at times truly hard to endure.
In other words, this is a film that easy to simultaneously love and hate. It is, perhaps, a work of genius – or, at very least, a film that deserves some legitimate attention.
Having had the opportunity to view the film twice now, once for festival consideration elsewhere and again for this festival, I can attest that the film isn’t solely impactful on one watch, but continues to be so on further explorations. In fact, certain scenes and sequences are more effective on rewatch. Nonetheless, a second watch was also not an easier or less grueling experience – which, I believe, is a testament to the craft of Grenzfurthner, his small cast, and his crew. The film truly documents the unraveling of a once sane mind into true insanity in a way far few films have capture before.
The festival program breaks the film down as such:
An oddity of hybrid mockumentary, Masking Threshold tracks the descent-into-madness of an isolated would-be scientist, who sets out to understand a peculiar form of tinnitus he’s developed. Ostensibly a found vlog composed entirely of macro and extreme closeup footage, Masking Threshold is a deeply unsettling film with stomach-churning sequences of violence, depravity, and grossness.
While a fantastic summary and fair description of the plot, this blurb cannot truly capture the serious power this film has to bring you into the inner workings of a mind that is on the precipice of total, disastrous meltdown. The way the shots are filmed, the narration, and the order of experiments, along with the consequential events of the experiments, all work together to paint a tediously real and difficult picture of what true madness can look like and how it can come about. In many cases, the slower pace and lack of “action” actually make the film almost too real, which lends to the difficulty of viewing the film.
This isn’t a film I’d recommend for a light hearted escape, nor a film I’d tell you to throw on at a party – however, this is a film you can site down with and contemplate life’s trial and tribulations alongside. This is a truly existential film in ways that even Albert Camus would be proud of.
If you like one of a kind genre films and have the patience for a “slow burn” film that makes the pacing of an A24 film feel like a sprint, this is a top-of-the-list recommendation from this film fan. It’s not for everyone, but if it is something you can appreciate, it’s likely to be one that you’ll find yourself thinking on for weeks and weeks after the credits finish rolling.