During an attempt to sedate and rape a young patient, a country doctor miscalculates the ether dosage. She dies – the doctor is condemned to death, whereupon he flees. Under a new identity, he enlists in the army and is stationed somewhere on the edges of the Russian Empire. In the barracks, he creates opportunities for himself to engage in rogue medical experiments: with the help of ether, he attempts to rob individuals of their free will. Morality, ethics and science stand at the centre of this Faustian costume drama set in 1912 – in which Zanussi revisits the grand subjects of his early work.