Documentary film “Monoblock” – cheap plastic chair conquers the world

Hawk Wendler in conversation with Jessa Over

In this park there are already five copies of the most successful chair in the world. It is estimated that there are a billion of them. (Part 53 / Boris Mahlaw)

It’s not the prettiest, but it’s the world’s best-selling chair. Director Hauke ​​Wendler has followed the plastic furniture of his movie “Monobloc” across continents. And I found that she has more fans than here.

Many find it hideous, but the Monobloc plastic chair is actually the best selling chair in the world. There should be a billion copies worldwide. In the Dok.fest Documentary Film Festival Munich Now celebrating its premiere, the documentary “Monobloc” that not only tells the story of this piece of furniture but also turns the plastic chair into a barometer of the world’s inequality.

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Hauke ​​Wendler set out on the Monobloc trail. His fascination with furniture began with a newspaper photo, which the director says showed 60 or 70 of these plastic chairs standing in the desert in Yemen in the warm light of the afternoon sun.

High quality chair for fans

What a great picture, think back then, but also: what an amazing pile of plastic scrap.

“Initially, this chair should be something of a high quality,” emphasizes the director. Its French inventor, Henri Massonnet, wanted to make a wonderful chair for the masses out of plastic. The chair by the pool was pictured with people in white tuxedos and golden pineapple.

Monobloc is manufactured in one piece – hence the name. This takes 50 seconds today. In the 1960s, Wendler says, it was still five minutes.

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Massonet made a lot of money out of the chair, even though the designer couldn’t apply for a patent because the production process couldn’t be protected, Wendler explains:

“Without these patent problems, the chair would not have become so widespread. That means hundreds of millions of people in the world today would have nothing to sit on.”

Better monoblock than no chair ever

The director says that his attitude toward monoblock changed after working on the documentary. “For me, this chair was just a ridiculous thing at first, as it was for most people.” But while shooting, he met people who lived in this chair or only owned this chair.

“For the vast majority of those eight billion people on Earth, life there looks very different from what we imagine,” Wendler said. “It’s easier and I can’t get past it and say: Yikes, a plastic chair, but it’s ugly.”

In Uganda, for example, the director met Don Schwendorfer, who used monoblock to make a wheelchair that was as cheap as possible. Because 70 million people need a wheelchair that they can’t afford.

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