The men making those shadows and shooting down that woman and her child are the cossacks. This film is the best of the cossacks slaughter films like Strike, Mother, and Arsenal. This is one of those movies they don’t let you out of your first semester in film school without seeing. The plot is very simple. Meat filled with maggots are the last straw for sailors on board the Potemkin who revolt and take the ship. One of their men dies in the process. They place his body on the shore of the city of Odessa and soon there is a crowd prepared to revolt with the sailors on the ship. Then the cossacks come in and massacre the people on the Odessa steps. The Potemkin then meets up with more ships that are behind them and that’s the end. What makes this film required viewing is the editing. Only Abel Gance and D.W. Griffith were doing this kind of cutting edge montage. The lessons learned from this film are in every movie that has come since. Even today when the film has lost some of it’s power, you still feel excited and moved to action.
Two little asides:
1. The movie is based on a real incident except that the dramatic massacre didn’t occur on the Odessa steps. It occurred in city streets.
2. Most people don’t mention a funny little sequence during the revolt on the Potemkin when Moses, at least I have no reason to believe he isn’t, shows up playing with a crucifix like it was a nightstick. The image is below. The Soviets were equally suspicious of any religion in their films. In Storm Over Asia the Buddhists get the shaft.
Do I really have to say I highly recommend it?