The Amazon rainforest has a way of making fools out of explorers, whether it’s the heroes of Werner Herzog’s Aguirre: Wrath of God (1972) or Fitzcarraldo (1982) or, of course, Herzog himself. The vastness of the landscape, its difficult landscape and people’s natural predilection for destruction and corruption can swallow its explorers whole, making a mockery of their dreams and ambitions.
Yet, as The Outpost (Edoardo Morabito, 2023) shows, this isn’t the whole picture, with eco-warrior Scotsman Christopher Clark staking his claim as a somewhat successful visitor to the Amazon. He lives in Xixuaú, one of the most pristine and untouched areas in the region, where he helped grow the local economy by promoting sustainable tourism initiatives. Nonetheless, the region is still under the threat of deforestation — especially thanks to then-president Jair Bolsonaro — leading to Clark rallying for its designation as a protected nature reserve. He has a crazy plan to make it happen: organising a Pink Floyd concert right in his new hometown.
What a cool idea for a film. Right?
I believe it’s worth giving away some spoilers now because it will certainly change how you view the film. So, if you want to know if he pulls off the Pink Floyd concert, look away now.
In fact, he doesn’t ever meet Roger Waters or David Gilmour. Waters was probably too busy trying to save Eastern Europe. And Gilmour, naturally, vows never to work with Waters again. Instead, we see him compose emails and talk about the two of them, but with no concrete plan in place. The dream is never, ever realised.
Take a look at the misleading official description:
“Chris takes a gamble and decides to pit an equally spectacular event against the destruction of the forest: a Pink Floyd concert inside the green inferno, as a way to convince the Brazilian government to set up a nature reserve.”
This gives the false expectation of a no-holds-barred, out-there concert that truly makes a difference. Instead, Christopher dies of cancer in a hospital back in his native Edinburgh. It’s very sad, of course, and reveals the documentary to be a somewhat touching fable exploring the difficulty of matching dreams with reality, but it’s very frustrating when you hear of a crazy plan, and you don’t even come close to seeing it happen. Nor do you get a real sense of the actual roadblocks hindering the project, as Waters and Gilmour — the only two people who could make it happen — do not actually give any information on the record.
It would’ve helped soften the blow perhaps if we heard some Pink Floyd. Sadly, apart from some diegetic music playing weakly off a phone, the first two notes of the famous guitar line from “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” and a weird reggae rearrangement of “Wish You Were Were”, Pink Floyd are totally absent from the movie. While some corners of modern criticism say you should “criticise what’s in front of you”, I think otherwise: this curious absence is just downright annoying, especially as the score itself is a repetitive jumble of sounds that barely even approximates the sound of the iconic British band. Ultimately, Morabito can only work with what’s in front of him, but that should start without the false promises. There’s hardly any momentum to this thing at all.