This is a superb film about the trials and tribulations of a teenage girl in East Germany (GDR, gone under by joining West Germany in 1990), with very many facets of daily life back then.
Elisabeth is the daughter of President of the County Council, Martin Haug. (The county appears to be Potsdam.) She enjoys life in a comparatively luxurious flat, and "taxi service" to school by her father's driver. Or have a negative record about her deleted from the school book. "In the name of the father", as the cynical Russian teacher (Peter Sodann) remarks as he does it. An unruly pupil answers: "Amen." (This is later echoed when she requests the deletion to be undone.) But seconds later, the school secretary calls Elisabeth out on emergency. She rushes to the hospital and meets her broken mother. We get many strong scenes of the ordering of a tombstone, funeral procession (where her long-lost brother Peter suddenly appears and joins in) and the funeral dinner.
Not much after that, Elisabeth goes to East Berlin to participate in a demonstration against NATO nuclear weapons, where "presence is mandatory" (the title, translated). Her potential boyfriend hands her the FDJ (Freie Deutsche Jugend, state youth organisation) flag because "his arm hurts". She guards it and, as the demo is over, takes it to visit her brother. There she meets his girlfriend Barbara as well, and interesting discussions ensue.
On the way back to Berlin-Lichtenberg train station, she is seriously attacked by a bully in the S-Bahn train, gets a black eye but defends the flag. Her schoolmates find her on the wrong platform and just in time get her on the train back to Potsdam (which at that time went semicircularly around West Berlin, dubbed "Sputnik").
This is a very strong, atmospheric, albeit sometimes slow, film. Erich and Margot Honecker didn't like it very much, so it wasn't promoted, but still quite popular in "Jugendweihe" events. I watched it twice before writing this review, and will watch it again. I'd rate it very high in the Top Ten GDR Movies. It tells a touching story from a "parallel universe" which vanished just 21 years ago. Thanks to SuperIllu magazine for making this available on DVD last Wednesday!
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