Tormented by his many high ideals and equally numerous failures to live up to them, an elderly Russian nobleman reminisces about his life while travelling on a ferryboat, as he listens to his fellow passengers telling stories about their religious faith. When he was a boy, he attended a military academy. He was so filled with high ideals and belief in the sacred person of the Tsar even then that he slapped a superior officer who, in his view, had betrayed those ideals. As a man, his troubled conscience led him to follow the monastic ideal and become a priest. However, his sexual urges were so overwhelming, even though they did not cause public trouble, that he shaved his beard and pretended that he never took holy orders. When an affair with a childhood girlfriend offers nothing in the way of consolation, he heads for Siberia, where he serves the peasantry as a teacher and a doctor. This film, commemorating the 150th year after the birth of Count Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910), is based on his last short story.
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