Filming Professor Mamlock © DEFA-Stiftung, Walter Ruge
Konrad Wolf was born on October 20, 1925, in Hechingen, Germany. He was the son of Friedrich Wolf, a prominent German-Jewish physician and author. Known for his antifascist activism, Friedrich Wolf had to leave Germany and go into exile in 1933; his family followed him in 1934 and they settled in Moscow. There Konrad and his brother Markus attended the German school, becoming citizens of the Soviet Union in 1936.
In December 1942, at the age of 17, Wolf enlisted in the Soviet Army. He worked as a translator in interrogations of German POWs and then as a Russian propaganda officer in Germany at the end of WWII. His war experiences became the basis for his acclaimed classics Ich war neunzehn and Mama, ich lebe. He also recorded his time as a Russian soldier and officer in moving diaries, which were published in Germany in 2016. Once in Berlin, Wolf organized lectures and discussions at the House of Cultures of the Soviet Union. He was released from the military in 1946.
From 1949 to 1955, Wolf studied with Mikhail Romm and Sergej A. Gerassimov at the famous VGIK film school in Moscow. His diploma film was a musical comedy entitled Einmal ist keinmal. While a student, Wolf met the Bulgarian scriptwriter Angel Wagenstein, with whom he later collaborated on the award-winning films Sterne (1959 Special Jury Prize, Cannes International Film Festival), Goya (1971 Special Prize, Moscow International Film Festival) and Der kleine Prinz. Wolf had received East German citizenship in 1952; after completing his studies, he returned there to pursue a career as a director.
Konrad Wolf joined the DEFA Studios in 1955, where he directed two films about the Nazi period in Germany: Genesung and Lissy. His next film, Sonnensucher, was more controversial, as it explored a complex cast of characters who found themselves in the GDR’s top-secret Wismut uranium mining district in the early 1950s. The film was banned and not released until 1971, after Wolf spent years trying to get it released. Solo Sunny, Wolf’s last feature film and a smash box-office hit, surprised audiences, who knew him as the director of films about war, peace and art; this film, in contrast, colorfully depicted the longings and frustrations of contemporary East German young people at the end of the 1970s.
For over two decades, Konrad Wolf worked with director of photography Werner Bergmann, who photographed all Wolf’s films until 1976 (except the television production Der kleine Prinz). The pair produced several award-winning films: Professor Mamlock, about early responses to Nazism, based on a play by Friedrich Wolf; Der geteilte Himmel, a story set in Berlin just after the Wall was built and based on a novel by Christa Wolf; and the artist’s film Der nackte Mann auf dem Sportplatz. Another long-standing collaboration was with the scriptwriter Wolfgang Kohlhaase; they worked on four scripts together: Ich war neunzehn, Der nackte Mann auf dem Sportplatz, Mama ich lebe and Solo Sunny.
Beside making movies, Konrad Wolf served as President of the East German Academy of the Arts from 1965 to 1982. He died on March 7, 1982, before completing his six-part documentary on German singer and actor Ernst Busch, Busch singt, and an autobiographical project about the friends of his youth in Moscow, Die Troika, which his brother Markus Wolf published in 1989. The Hochschule für Film und Fernsehen (now Filmuniversität Babelsberg) in Potsdam has carried the name of Konrad Wolf, one of Germany’s most important directors, since 1985.
Festivals & Awards:
|1981||Best Contemporary Film of the Year 1980, Critics' Poll of the Theory and Criticism Section of the GDR Association of Film and Television Professionals for Solo Sunny|
|1980||FIPRESCI Critics' Prize, Berlin International Film Festival, for Solo Sunny|
|1980||Gold Plaque for Best Script (with Wolfgang Kohlhaase), Chicago International Film Festival for Solo Sunny|
|1980||Best Director (with Wolfgang Kohlhaase), GDR National Feature Film Festival, Karl-Marx-Stadt, for Solo Sunny|
|1977||Art Prize of the Free German Trade Union Federation for Mama, ich lebe|
|1971||National Prize, Class 1, for Goya oder der arge Weg der Erkenntnis|
|1971||Special Jury Prize, Moscow International Film Festival for Goya oder der arge Weg der Erkenntnis|
|1961||Silver Lotus, New Delhi Film Festival for Professor Mamlock|
|1959||Special Jury Prize, Cannes International Film Festival for Sterne|
|1959||Certificate of Recognition, Edinburgh International Film Festival for Sterne|
|1959||Gold Medal, Film Festival of the World Festival of Youth and Students, Vienna for Sterne|
|1957||Third Prize, Karlovy Vary International Film Festival for Lissy|
|1957||Bronze Medal, Film Festival of the Moscow World Festival of Youth and Students for Lissy|
|1956||Bronze Medal, Film Festival of the Damascus International Trade Fair for Genesung|
Bibliography & More:
Direkt in Kopf und Herz: Aufzeichnungen. Reden. Interviews. Berlin: Henschel, 1989.
Elsaesser, Thomas. “Defining DEFA’s Historical Imaginary: The Films of Konrad Wolf .” European Cinema: Face to Face with Hollywood. Amsterdam: Amsterdam UP, 2005. 325- 341.
Feinstein, Joshua. The Triumph of the Ordinary: Depictions of Daily Life in the East German Cinema. Chapel Hill and London: North Carolina UP, 2002.
Jocobsen, Wolfgang, and Rolf Aurich. Der Sonnensucher Konrad Wolf. Berlin: Aufbau, 2005.
Konrad Wolf: 1925-1982. Frankfurt: Deutsches Institut für Filmkunde, 1983.
Konrad Wolf: Selbstzeugnisse - Fotos - Dokumente. Berlin: Das Europäische Buch, 1985.
Powell, Larson. The Films of Konrad Wolf: Archive of the Revolution. Rochester: Camden House, 2020.
|1982||Busch singt (Busch Sings, doc.)|
|1976||Mama, ich lebe (Mama, I'm Alive)|
|1973||Der nackte Mann auf dem Sportplatz (The Naked Man on the Sports Field)|
|1971||Goya oder der arge Weg der Erkenntnis (Goya, or the Hard Way to Enlightenment)|
|1967||Ich war neunzehn (I Was Nineteen)|
|1966||Der kleine Prinz (The Little Prince, TV)|
|1964||Der geteilte Himmel (Divided Heaven)|
|1960||Leute mit Flügeln (People with Wings)|
|1958||Sonnensucher (Sun Seekers)|
|1955||Einmal ist keinmal (Once Does Not Count)|