Externo begins with a series of disclaimers written in bold red lettering as the screen glides through a kaleidoscope of monochrome imagery:
‘This film is based on a true story… The reality that you will see in this film is not real… The rulers don’t behave as we show in this film… So, please be kind and don’t interpret this story as reality’.
Is this an earnest plea, sardonic irony or a pointed rebuttal of conspiracy extremists? It might be all three. In any case, it becomes obvious that the filmmakers have an appropriately skeptical view of the world and an awareness of the monied interests that shape it.
Our focaliser is Joseph (Leandro Taub), a radical businessman who plans to conquer the world with $2000 dollars and a smart phone. Living off-grid in a derelict warehouse, Joseph liaises with a network of industries, plotting ways in which to build influence and mountains of capital.
With his beard, suit and black leather boots, Taub has a cultish presence about him. His speech is slow, deliberate and with a heavy accent that gives Joseph authority and authenticity, especially when discussing financial manipulation. After all, Taub is a financial advisor as well as an author, speaker, actor and director. Indeed, his wide interests and endeavours are felt throughout the film.
As Joseph’s net worth grows, so does his greed and amorality. In the film’s timeliest and most conspiratorial moment, Joseph engineers a virus outbreak in Namibia so that he can provide a vaccine, which sends millions of dollars into his bank accounts. By the film’s end, he is a political puppet master spreading his tentacles across the globe.
It is a story of how absolute power corrupts absolutely, and it is presented in a style that combines political satire with art installation. Particularly striking is the ultra-wide 3.55:1 aspect ratio, which few will have encountered before. Also, the various derelict sites in which Joseph operates are photographed well by Jesse Mickle and Jonas Schneider, capturing rays of light cutting through the dankness.
Ultimately, despite its conspiratorial geopolitics, Externo’s formatting will lend itself best to an experimental art house crowd. One not too dissimilar to that of Alejandro Jodorowsky, with whom Leandro Taub collaborated on Endless Poetry.