Masking Threshold is one of the stranger films I’ve seen in some time, almost a YouTube video filled with non-stop zoom-in screens and talking from a person we never see, an IT person (physically played by Johannes Grenzfurthner with spoken performance by Ethan Haslam) who has been dealing with non-stop ringing in his ears for three years. Somehow, someway, he has to make the sound stop. And the theories he comes up with will not only change his view of the world but perhaps even destroy nearly everyone in his world.
The film that unspools is the journal of this man, starting as the meticulous work of an investigator who goes mad as the sound keeps assaulting him with medical science claiming there’s no cure and any scientists he shares his theories with branding him a lunatic. So he plays into exactly what science believes and gradually goes insane, the screws coming out as we watch along, going through each experience with him before some moments happen that are difficult to face. His fingers smashing an ant starts his detachment and within minutes, he’s moved up to slugs, birds and more. Yes, it’s just how they claim a serial killer starts to feel no emotion for small animals, but the journey into fringe belief — while doing all your research via the internet and social media — provides a reflection into how Pizzagate — referenced in the film — and Q-Anon can take over the brains of even the most rational of human beings.
Beyond the sounds of silence driving the protagonist to find a cure, he’s already isolated by being a geek and queer. That means that he has plenty of time to transform his bathtub into a green hell, to order all manner of gadgets, to slowly losing his home to his growing theories.
The description of this film claims that it’s a chamber play, a scientific dissertation and an unboxing video, but it’s also like watching a time-lapse of something — or somewhere or someone — going through the stages of rot.
Artist, filmmaker, writer, actor, curator, theatre director, performer and lecturer — Johannes Grenzfurthner is a force of nature. His films Traceroute and Glossary of Broken Dreams were documentaries that have led to this pseudo-reality that can only have one violent ending. This may be the most unnerving film that I watched at Fantastic Fest, but it may also be the one that sticks in my head for the longest.