A Masque of Madness

In what can only be described as a schizophrenic horror trip, A Masque of Madness is Norbert Pfaffenbichler’s own found-footage monster assembled from all of the accessible film appearances of British actor Boris Karloff. If you’ve seen at least one image from the film Frankenstein from 1931, then you know Karloff’s face. Karloff rose to fame in 1931 as Frankenstein’s monster, but he has also played nearly 200 other roles ranging from demons to dignified gentlemen. It is Karloff’s fascinating malleability that A Masque of Madness studies, exploring his multiple appearances in a bewildering
labyrinth where the actor plays with the great motifs of the cinema genre he both inhabited and haunted. Here, Karloff’s acting career spanning 50 years (1919-1969) is compressed into one mind-fucking movie. This re-montage of a life in film radiates both analytical interest and a nimble pleasure of association. Pfaffenbichler has created his own kind of often hilarious meta-horror-movie. Here, the lonely star absurdly disintegrates in multitudes of his image(s), yet is unable to escape his cinematic destiny. From black-and-white to color, silent to sound, Karloff’s familiar image washes over us. We watch him age from young to old and back again, all the while a storyline magically materializes that could be defined as a meditation on aging or a stab at solving the mysteries of life. With a growing emphasis on the comic and the uncanny, A Masque of Madness succeeds as a hugely entertaining and playfully profound found-footage extravaganza. Norbert Pfaffenbichler, b 1967, lives and works in Vienna. After studying media design at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna, he began his career as an artist, curator, theorist, and filmmaker.

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