The Commissar of the title, played by Nonna Mordyukova, is a Soviet functionary wielding power over a remote Jewish village. Neither she nor the villagers care for the status quo, but over a period of several weeks both come to accept the situation and to establish a <I>detente</I>. The film's pro-Semitism was not entirely in keeping with Soviet policy of the 1960s, thus the film was shelved and hidden from the general public. Only with the thawing of East-West relationships, and the political upheaval in Russia itself, was The Commissar deemed "safe" for general consumption. The film was finally distributed in 1988, twenty years after its completion.