At the dawn of the twentieth century, Russian laborers at a metal works factory are routinely exploited and marginalized by their Czarist overlords. When a comrade falsely accused of theft commits suicide, the workers have finally had enough, and call a general strike. But chances for any kind of a positive outcome seem slim. Before long, the inevitable confrontation with government authorities turns horrendously deadly.
Revisiting the failed 1905 Bolshevik uprising, Eisenstein's tumultuous debut feature is a masterpiece of early film, uniting proletariat passion with his signature visual style. Cutting quickly between disparate images (people and animals, for instance), the director conveys meaning through visual poetry rather than narrative exposition. Eisenstein went on to direct other landmarks such as "Battleship Potemkin" and the epic "Ivan the Terrible," but "Strike" is where he first found his footing as a director, documenting a pivotal moment in his country's history. Certain sequences — the gutting of a bull, the massacre of an infant — still hold the power to shock viewers, but there's nothing gratuitous here. And there's never any doubt that we are in the hands of a brilliant artist.