The Movie Waffler Film Maudit 2.0 2022 Review - MASKING THRESHOLD | The Movie Waffler

Film Maudit 2.0 2022 Review - MASKING THRESHOLD

masking threshold review
A troubled man's attempts to cure his hearing condition take a dark turn.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Johannes Grenzfurthner

Starring: Ethan Haslam, Katharina Rose

masking threshold poster

I recently received a press release alerting me to the upcoming release of a "podcast movie." What on Earth is a podcast movie? Turns out it's simply a feature length audio drama. How is that a movie? By the most basic definition, a movie must consist of moving pictures. Wait, what about Derek Jarman's Blue, which features audio played over a blue screen for its duration? Sorry Jarmanites, not a movie. What if a film features moving pictures that don’t add anything to the storytelling? Well that describes an awful lot of the films that have ever been made, and today's crop of Hollywood movies are increasingly reliant on dialogue over images as a means of storytelling. Is Spider-Man: No Way Home, which mostly features characters spouting exposition in a series of bland rooms, as much of a movie as Raiders of the Lost Ark? They're both technically movies, but only one could really call itself a Movie, the other is just a TV episode that happened to play in cinemas.

masking threshold review

Director Johannes Grenzfurthner's Masking Threshold features moving pictures throughout. Many of them are beautifully captured and some of them are genuinely repulsive, but they don’t really play much of a role in the storytelling. That task is given over almost wholly to a voiceover narration delivered by the film's nameless protagonist (Ethan Haslam), whose face is never seen but whose voice is heard throughout.

That narrator is an IT worker cursed with tinnitus who takes it upon himself to cure himself of his affliction. Taking unscheduled time off work and shutting himself away in a backroom of his home, he attempts to get to the bottom of what is causing the constant ringing in his ears. To do this he recreates sound using various objects and analysing what difference, if any, their presence makes to the noise in his ears. His observations are peppered with rants on various topics, from organised religion to his hatred of crowded spaces.

masking threshold review

While his narrator babbles away, Grenzfurthner presents us with images of his working environment, often captured in some impressive macro photography. But regardless of the images presented, we're forced to hang on the narrator's every word to keep up with the narrative. The images are secondary to the verbal narration. You could turn off the picture and still follow the plot, but if you turned off the sound the images would leave you baffled. This is anathema to the very concept of cinema, and whether you can stick with Masking Threshold will depend on how devoted you are to the notion of cinema as a visual medium.

Even taken as an audio drama with accompanying images, Masking Threshold will likely test your patience. It's all too predictable where the increasingly unstable narrator is headed with his experiment, i.e. down the route taken by every mad movie scientist. The feature length simply isn't justified for a story that could have just as easily been told as a far less gruelling short.

masking threshold review

It doesn't help that the narrator is one of the most unpleasant protagonists of recent years, and that we're forced to listen to his deranged rants for the duration of the movie. Things take a particularly grim turn when he begins chopping up and torturing insects and slugs, which will no doubt prove the turning point for a lot of viewers. In both its storytelling technique, its disturbing images and irritating protagonist, from which there is no escape, Masking Threshold is as uncomfortable as a "movie" gets. I don't know who I could recommend this to.

Masking Threshold
 plays at Film Maudit 2.0 from January 12th.

2022 movie reviews