SOLO SUNNY (1980), Konrad Wolf's last completed film, is significant not only within the director's oeuvre but also in the history of DEFA film as a whole. It marks not only a generic breakthrough for a director otherwise better known for his antifascist films of the Second World War but also the tail end of a group of late-’60s and ‘70s DEFA women’s films, and the last gasp of the final brief period of liberal cultural policy in the GDR at the end of the 1970s. That fleeting window of liberalization, moreover, ended right at the time the film was premiered, so that its reception and unusually lively public discussion was choked off before it could properly develop. The emigration of the film's starring actress, Renate Krossner, to West Germany only a few years later (1985) further diminished its public resonance, for those who “fled the republic” immediately became personae non gratae, put under a ban of public silence, once they left.
The film thus offers an unusual wealth of interpretative problems both in terms of production (its aesthetic form) and of reception and spectatorship. It can be read both generically, as a melodrama and star vehicle, and also sociologically, as a intervention (Eingriff) into public discourse on women and private life, an area where the GDR, like other Eastern European societies, had developed a domain called in German a Nischengesellschaft (niche society), which, if it was not always as political as the nascent civil societies of then-contemporary Poland or Czechoslovakia, nonetheless presented an alternative to official models of citizenship and managed public sphere. The “local genre” of the woman's film, in its ambiguous relation to melodrama and star vehicle, will be seen as the vehicle for this intervention, as the ground where questions of form and reception intersect. As will become evident, the formal and generic questions raised by the film can only be answered through its reception.
Although it is possible to view Wolf's film through an auteurist lens, as the director's cinephile response to other women's films and melodramas made in West Germany and the United States at the time, in what follows I will seek to complement such attention to the immanent surface of the film with its reception history.