Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk
Katerina, the young wife of Zinovy Ismailov, is bored with her life and loveless marriage. Her father-in-law, Boris, complains that she hasn’t produced an heir yet and warns her not to take a lover. When news arrives that a dam on an outlying part of their property has broken, Zinovy decides to oversee the repairs himself. Before he leaves, he points out to his father a new laborer named Sergei. Boris humiliates Katerina by making her swear in public that she will be faithful to her husband and by forcing her to her knees. The cook Aksinya gossips that the handsome Sergei was dismissed from his last job because the mistress fell for him.
The workers, led by Sergei, molest Aksinya. Katerina intervenes, defending the bravery of women and berating Sergei. He challenges her to a trial of strength. They wrestle, clearly attracted to each other, and Sergei pins her down just as Boris appears. Boris threatens to tell Zinovy about his wife’s behavior and sends them all back to work.
Later in her bedroom, Katerina reflects on her frustrated passion and despair. On the pretext of wanting to borrow a book, Sergei knocks on the door. He seizes her and their embrace leads to passionate lovemaking.
The sleepless Boris keeps watch over the house. Lost in memories of his youthful amorous adventures and seeing light in Katerina’s room, he decides to perform his son’s marital duties for him. At that moment he overhears Sergei kissing Katerina goodbye at her window. He seizes Sergei as he climbs down and summons his daughter-in-law to watch as he flogs her lover. Locked in her room, Katerina is unable to defend Sergei, but she eventually climbs down and hurls herself at Boris. Sergei is locked in the storeroom. Boris demands food and sends a message to call Zinovy home. Katerina serves him mushrooms she has poisoned. Boris cries out for help and for a priest to hear his confession, but Katerina just takes his keys and goes to release Sergei. The priest arrives in time to hear Boris accuse his daughter-in-law of murder, but Katerina mourns so eloquently that all believe the dying man is raving.
In Katerina’s room, Sergei warns her that Zinovy’s return will bring an end to their love. As he falls asleep, she thinks about their future but becomes terrified when the ghost of Boris appears and curses her. Her screams wake Sergei, who sees nothing and calms Katerina. When they hear Zinovy approaching, Sergei hides. Zinovy enters and questions his wife. She responds with sarcasm, and he starts beating her with Sergei’s belt, which he noticed lying on the bed. Sergei rushes forward to defend her. Zinovy tries to escape, but Katerina strangles him with Sergei’s help. The lovers dispose of the body.
On their wedding day, Katerina and Sergei think about the hidden corpse. As they leave for the ceremony, a drunken peasant, in search of more liquor, breaks open the door and discovers the body.
At the local jail, the Police Sergeant and his men idly sing the praises of their profession and complain about the low pay. They question a teacher who is accused of being a nihilist, but even this diversion can’t compensate for the fact that none of them has been invited to Katerina’s wedding. When the peasant appears with news of having found a corpse at the Ismailovs’, they hurry off to investigate.
During the wedding feast Katerina suddenly notices that the lock has been broken. She tells Sergei they must leave immediately. As he goes to get money from the house, the police arrive. Katerina, realizing there is no point in resistance, holds out her wrists to be handcuffed. Sergei tries to escape but is captured.
On the road to Siberia, convicts stop by a river for the night, men and women in separate groups. Katerina bribes a guard and finds Sergei, who blames her for ruining his life. Tormented by his rejection, she returns to her place. Meanwhile, Sergei flirts with another convict, the young Sonyetka, who promises to be his if he will get her a new pair of socks. Sergei goes to Katerina, pretending he won’t be able to walk further unless she gives him her stockings. Katerina does and he immediately takes them to Sonyetka. Katerina watches helplessly as the other women taunt her. An officer orders everyone to get ready to continue the march. Katerina approaches Sonyetka and drags her off a bridge into the river where both are drowned.