the design in fassbinder’s “world on a wire”

joe colombo

lots of the joe colombo “universale” chairs in a cafe

I had heard that Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s film for German TV called “World On a Wire” was an especially good bleak futuristic sci-fi movie, and so I rented the DVD from Netflix. I really enjoyed the movie, but as a design geek I was blown away by all the cool Euro 70’s design!

In the film the protagonist Stiller is hired to take over as the head of a supercomputer project that has created a simulated world populated by simulated people. People from the real world and the simulated world interact, and before long things get messy. I won’t give away the plot but it’s a really nice reality jumble, not unlike a Philip K. Dick story.

Anyway, the film sets are stuffed with all kinds of really cool looking 70’s futuristic design. Most of it I wasn’t able to identify, but there were a few pretty well-known pieces like the Joe Colombo “Universale” chair for Kartell shown above. The cafe scene this is from had a lot of these chairs. During the scene it almost seems like they are attacking Stiller!

The “Universale” chair was designed in 1965, but it wasn’t until 1967 that it was put into production. Apparently it was tricky getting the plastic to behave, but they figured it out and it became a big hit.

"world on a wire" - fabricius and kastholm fk86 lounge chair

bad guy sitting in a fabricius and kastholm fk86 lounge chair

There are also some nice looking Fabricius and Kastholm chairs, like the FK86 lounge chair manufactured by Alfred Kill in Germany above.

vlcsnap-2013-11-04-21h57m21s169Here’s a cool three-legged example of the Fabricius and Kastholm “Bird Chair”, with a rad chrome and glass modern lamp in the foreground. I’d love to know more about that lamp!

vlcsnap-2013-11-04-22h09m32s224There were so many cool interiors, like the one above with more Kartell-looking plastic furniture and decorative extras. A lot of the interiors featured mirrors and glass which allowed Fassbinder to make the viewer unsure what was real and what was a reflection.

This was a true pan-European effort: the film was shot in Paris by Fassbinder for a German television station, and featured design by Italian and Danish designers, and who knows who else. A great time capsule of European modernism!



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