The life of Napoleon Bonaparte is depicted from his schooldays to the French Revolution, his marriage to Josephine, and his Italian campaign in 1796.
In 1781 at a school Tristan Fleuri (Nicolas Koline) witnesses Napoleon (Vladimir Roudenko) winning a major snowball fight. Other students let Napoleon's pet eagle out of his cage. He tries to fight them all and is punished.
Nine years later Rouget de l'Isle (Harry Krimer) goes to Danton (Alexandre Koubitzky), and the people in the Assembly sing his "Marseillaise." On August 10, Danton calls for a republic. A palm reader tells Josephine de Beauharnais (Gina Manes) that she will be a queen.
Napoleon (Albert Dieudonné) goes back to Corsica with his sister Elisa. Napoleon says that the English will not take Corsica, and he struggles against the popular Pozzo di Borgo (Acho Chakatouny), who offers a reward for Napoleon, dead or alive. Napoleon makes an appeal for France. Cavalry pursues Napoleon. The council declares war on France, but Napoleon comes in and cancels it. He flees to the sea and takes a small boat. While Napoleon survives a storm, the Assembly erupts into a riot. A reign of terror removes leaders of the Revolution. Napoleon's brothers find his boat and take him on their ship.
General Carteaux (Leon Courtois) is besieging Toulon. Captain Napoleon arrives and trains men. General Dugommier (Alexandre Bernard) replaces Carteaux and uses Napoleon's artillery. Dugommier promotes Napoleon and lets him command. Against orders, Napoleon attacks in the rain. After 76 hours of fighting the English retreat.
Charlotte Corday (Marguerite Gance) gets revenge for the Girondists by stabbing Marat (Antonin Artaud) in his bath. Antonio Salicetti (Philippe Hériat) asks Maximilien Robespierre (Edmond Von Daele) to put Napoleon on trial, but Robespierre puts him in charge of the Paris garrison. Robespierre has Danton condemned and beheaded. Napoleon declines to obey Robespierre, who has him arrested. Josephine is also imprisoned. Salicetti visits Napoleon in his cell. The Vicomte de Beauharnais graciously volunteers to be executed so that Josephine may live. La Bussiere eats her death warrant, and Tristan Fleuri eats Napoleon's.
In Thermidor 1794 the Assembly condemns Robespierre and Louis Saint-Just (Abel Gance), who makes a speech on what the Revolution has accomplished. Napoleon is released from prison but declines to fight Frenchmen. He plans an Italian campaign, but the French commander there calls his plan mad. The French are starving, and the Royalists are approaching Paris. The Assembly puts Napoleon in command, and he arms the convention members. Outnumbered, Napoleon organizes his forces and sends Captain Murat to get cannons. Napoleon forgives Salicetti.
The Assembly makes their savior Napoleon the chief general. France celebrates with balls. Napoleon plays chess and talks with Josephine. He lets her daughter keep her father's sword, and Josephine comes to thank him. Napoleon sees Josephine in a globe and kisses it. She agrees to marry him, and he plays with her children. Josephine has Barras (Maxudian) get Napoleon appointed commander in Italy.
Napoleon quickly weds Josephine so he can conquer Italy in three months. He stops at the empty convention to meditate, and the spirits of the Revolution ask him to be their leader. Napoleon plans a universal republic in Europe. In the coach he writes to Josephine. He wins the respect of rebellious officers and restores morale in a poorly equipped army. On April 11, 1796 Napoleon speaks to his army and leads them into a promised land. They invade Italy, and Paris cheers the news. On a mountaintop Napoleon thinks of Josephine, Italy, and the world.
This historical epic reflects French patriotism for their
tumultuous revolution and the military leader who turned it into
an empire. Napoleon prophesies that some day the struggle for
a universal Europe may be won without using weapons.