The film opens with the Potemkin's sailors arguing with their superiors over some rotting meat. Gradually, as the mistreatment of the sailors escalates, a group of them are threatened with being shot. One crew member speaks out, sparking a rebellion on the ship. The superior officers are quickly overrun but the original sailor who spoke out is fatally wounded in the scuffle.
A smaller craft is manned along with the dead rebellion leader and lands at port Odessa. They are greeted by the Russian people with happiness that someone has spoken out against their oppression. Their glee turns to shock as the police arrive and shoot all those in the street.
Meanwhile, on the Potemkin, the crew members prepare for an onslaught from other frigates. They must choose whether to stand their ground or back down and concede the rebellion.
The most shocking scene in the film is the scene where the police decide to randomly shoot all those in the street, whether it be men, women or children. The brutality of this event is perfectly captured on the black and white film.
As it is a silent film, the film is interspersed with captions describing who a particular person is, or what they are saying. To begin with it was infuriating from my point of view that there weren't more of these because I was a bit confused, but gradually, it became more apparent that by putting these in it ruined the flow of a moving and harrowing film.
I didn't get on with Eisenstein's first film on the Empire 5-star 500 - Alexander Nevsky - but this one is far superior.
Full Feature (Public Domain)