MONOBLOC

(90 min., Germany 2021)

MONOBLOC

(90 min., Germany 2021)

The monobloc is the best-selling piece of furniture of all time. Estimates claim there are a billion of these cheap, often white plastic chairs in use ­– all over the world, in every country and every corner. How could it have come to this?

The feature-length documentary MONOBLOC tells the story of how this unassuming chair ridiculed by many conquered the world. How it destroys livelihoods and brings affluence. How it threatens our environment and ‘good taste’. Yet also about how the monobloc is indispensable for millions of people to whom a chair is a chair and nothing more.

Grimme Prize winner Hauke Wendler worked on this film for eight years. Together with his camera team he travelled across half the world, from an industrial park in Italy to Uganda, the USA and on to the megacities of India, all the way to a favela in Brazil.

At the end of this long journey the film breaks our ultracomplex consumer world down to the question of what it truly takes in the life of a human being to be happy. MONOBLOC is a tale that an object tells with a critical eye toward globalization, a story that spans functionality and beauty, capitalism and sharing, consumption and recycling.

Director: Hauke Wendler
Director of Photography: Boris Mahlau
Film Editor: Sigrid Sveistrup
Music: Taco van Hettinga
Sound Mixing: Yannick Rehder
Commissioning Editor: Timo Großpietsch (NDR)
Production: PIER 53 Filmproduktion

FESTIVALS

DOK.fest München, Germany

INTERVIEW

Hauke Wendler

How does one come up with the idea to make a film about a plastic chair?
Hauke Wendler: I saw a photo in the newspaper back in 2013: Dozens of plastic chairs were lined up in a desert before a setting sun. I thought to myself, what a fabulous photo and what an incredible conglomeration of plastic junk. That was when my fellow filmmaker and I decided to make this film.

8 years from the initial idea to completion – that’s quite a long time.
Hauke Wendler: No doubt about it. But when you run a production company you have to orient yourself in line with current developments. Starting in 2013 we made 3 feature-length films on the subjects of fleeing and migration. Because that’s one of our thematic emphases and all of a sudden the room was there to produce those films. They were projects that meant a lot to us, too, so MONOBLOC simply had to wait. And I’m all the happier that we were able to finish shooting before the coronavirus took hold. Otherwise it would’ve gotten tight.

When you work so long on a film project, is there also a point where you say that’s it, I’ve had enough?
Hauke Wendler: The thought crosses your mind every now and then. But as a filmmaker, and even more so as producer, I’d say that’s no option. With MONOBLOC, the film’s major strength was simultaneously its weak point, too. A so-called “property” like this falls through the grid, the usual range of subjects that TV networks in Germany support. And then it gets really hard to finance that kind of project. In between it felt like we were selling broken-down used cars.

Among other locations you filmed in Uganda, India and Brazil. You really got around with this film, didn’t you?
Hauke Wendler: That’s the truth. The film led us halfway around the world, although I’d tend more to say: it drove us. On the one hand it was thrilling. On the other, I can clearly recall that at some point my 12-year-old son stood in front of me and said: Haven’t you had enough of that plastic chair yet? Which makes me even happier that the film is finished now and turned out the way we had hoped it would. I’d say that’s the actual challenge when you’re making documentary films.

How has your view of the chair changed over the years?
Hauke Wendler: At the beginning the monobloc was a kind of ludicrous object for me as well: no ambition whatsoever, not particularly pretty, and ecologically questionable. Over the years and the many encounters with people who at times tell very moving stories in the film, completely different issues arose in my mind, including thoughts about our world and the world order on the whole. That was the real surprise from this production: The farther we moved away from home, the more I learned about our lives in Germany and the privileges here.

Now the world has been struggling with the coronavirus for quite a while. Is this the right point in time for a film about a plastic chair?
Hauke Wendler: If you could take the billions that are invested in films each year to rid the world of hunger and misery, then I’d sign on right away. But that’s just not the way things run. I think it’s that much more important that films, books, pictures or music are there to mirror our everyday lives in them, and also in comparison to the rest of the world. During the crisis this has become quite clear once again, and MONOBLOC is coming at just the right time.

What do you mean by that?
Hauke Wendler: During the coronavirus crisis I realized again just how much we in the Western world constantly revolve around ourselves and our anxieties. Our film MONOBLOC sets a counterpoint to this by saying in an entertaining but equally moving way: Look, that’s the world out there, and its mindset is different from the way you think. Completely different.

CREDITS

PIER 53 Filmproduktion

in co-production with
Norddeutscher Rundfunk

funded by
Film Fund Hamburg Schleswig-Holstein
The Federal Government Commissioner for Culture & the Media
German Federal Film Board
German Federal Film Fund
Creative Europe Programme – MEDIA

A film by
Hauke Wendler

Film Editor
Sigrid Sveistrup

Director of Photography
Boris Mahlau

Music Composer
Taco van Hettinga

Additional Camera
Jonny Müller-Goldenstedt

Sound
Patrick Benze
Julian Krätzig
Detlev Meyer
Stefan Tuchel

Aerial Photography
Patrick Benze
Thulunga Basumatary
Julian Krätzig
Boris Mahlau
Oliver Richardt

Dolly Grip
Carsten Scharrmann
Anne Beyer

Special Effects
Gerald Gustav

Stills Photography
Jonny Müller-Goldenstedt
Marco Grundt

Line Producer
Andrea Pittlik

Runner
Marga Glanz
Sven Hoferichter

Production Design
Petra Edlich

Set Design
Christoph Breitmar
Ralf Austel

Research
Andrea Pittlik
Prachi Bari
Emanuela Casentini
Eduardo Duwe
Henry Wasswa

Location Scouts
Prachi Bari
Eduardo Duwe
Petra Edlich
Oliver Richardt
Henry Wasswa

Drivers
Ronélio Moreira Bulcão
Bagga Singh
Saul Zaake

Transcription
Anne Schmalfeldt
Paula Neunzig

Translation
Samuel Bawala
Emanuela Casentini
Maria Cecília Lima de Araujo
Neeru Franck
Leigh Hoch

Travel Agency
Monika Wever, Fairlines

Equipment Rental
Detlef Lutz, MBF
Matthias Stiehler, Cine-Mobil

Assistant Film Editor
Lukas Hinsch

Graphic Design
Katja Reise
Nina Höffken

Title Design
Georg Krefeld
Jens Reitmeyer

Musicians
Taco van Hettinga (Keyboard, Piano, Saxophone, Bass)
Deniz Erarslan (Guitar)
Samuel Wootton (Percussions)

Music Mixing
Daniel Bongard
Taco van Hettinga

Narrator
Jens Wendland

Sound Design
Timo Lindemann, Tonik Studio

Dialogue Editing
Tobias Farshim, Tonik Studio

Sound Mixing
Yannick Rehder, Tonik Studio

Image Editing
Oliver Stammel

DCP Mastering
Martin Heckmann, Kinopost

Photo Archives
Alamy
Picture Alliance
Reuters
Free Wheelchair Mission
Jürgen Lindemann
Jens Thiel, Monobloc Archiv

Additional Video Footage
Jens Thiel, Visit at Henry Massonnet’s, 2005

Production Assistants
Andrea Pittlik
Jacob Hendriks, NDR

Production Management
Stefan Hoffmann
Tim Carlberg, NDR

Commissioning Editor
Timo Großpietsch, NDR

Executive Producers
Carsten Rau und Hauke Wendler