Jonathan Taub and Leandro Taub’s Externo is a thought experiment about how much one person can truly control the world.
Joseph (Leandro Taub) is a mysterious man living in the ruins of a factory town who invests $2000 and rapidly expands his fortune and influence into something that rather terrifyingly resembles the modern world. Buying up real estate, media influence, pharmaceutical companies and politicians and then using their loyalties to instigate wars, Joseph becomes the embodiment of corruption.
Mostly shot as a series of monologue phone conversations filmed in abandoned warehouses, Externo is more like a long video installation at a gallery than a conventional film. Whether or not you give up within the first twenty minutes depends entirely on your patience for capital-A Art, but as an actual movie you’re not exactly going to be thrilled here. It’s not without its merits and it’s certainly got a lot to say about the nature of power and corruption, but you won’t exactly be fondly remembering any scenes or even any dialogue here.
The film constantly breaks the fourth wall with title screens and nods to its nature as an experiment or presentation, making it almost entirely uninvolving as a story. Because Joseph’s only physical interactions with anyone are some stylised sequences where he romances an unnamed woman (played by Elisabeth Ehrlich), the film mostly drags by. Is he supposed to be a real man living in this environment or is this just done for visual purposes? Is this actually supposed to be happening in a filmed reality, or is it just conceptual? Perhaps there’s a gem that could be found in a judicious edit of the film, but even at 82 minutes it’s a slog. This is a prime example of ambition outstripping means, which is horribly ironic considering the subject matter. Is it intentionally ironic? That’s hard to say.
If you are satisfied with noble intentions and can stand to watch a dishevelled man rant down a phone in some shattered locations, this is a curiosity that might be worth a look. If you want characters or a story, you’re out of luck.