Written and directed by Woody Allen, a Russian man likes to talk philosophy with his cousin, but she marries someone else. He goes to war and does not want to fight but becomes a hero. He and his cousin try to assassinate Napoleon but are put off by their ethical debate.
Boris (Woody Allen) explains that he is going to be executed for a crime he never committed. He asks if mankind is in the same boat. He is going at six in the morning. He remembers his happy times at their summer house. His father had a winter place too, and he had another small piece of land he carried around. His father was an idiot, but he loved him. Boris thought of himself as being crucified. His first experience with death was when old Nehamkin was killed by lightning while putting up a lightning rod. After the funeral he has a strange dream with many open coffins erect in a field, and waiters dance with each other.
Boris talks with Father Nikolai who explains that God must exist because something had to create the universe. Boris says that Spinoza did not believe in the holy Trinity, and Nikolai says Spinoza was a Jew. Boris asks what a Jew is, and Nikolai shows him some sketches.
While walking in the woods Boris has a vision of Death, and he asks what happens after death, whether there are girls.
Boris says he grew up to be 5’ 6” and could own land. People dance outside during a celebration. His brothers Ivan (Henry Czarniak) and Mikhail (Feodor Atkine) and he are healthy, but he does not dance as well.
Boris believes his cousin Sonja (Diane Keaton) is the most beautiful woman he has ever seen, and he has deep conversations with her. In an attic she shows him leaves and says this is the best of all possible worlds. He looks at a pistol and says it is the most expensive. She asks if nature is incredible, but he says it is spiders and bug and big fish eating little fish and animals eating. He sees it as a big restaurant. She says it is beautiful even if it does not appear so to us at the moment. He asks what if there is no God. She asks if he is joking. He asks what if we are just absurd people who are running around with no rhyme or reason. She says if there is no God, they may as well commit suicide. He tells her not to get hysterical because he could be wrong. He would hate to blow his brains out and then read in the paper they discovered something. She posits that if there is no God, and everyone can do whatever they want, she asks what prevents him from murdering someone. He says murder is immoral, but she says morality is subjective. He says subjectivity is objective. She says it is not in a rational scheme of perception. He replies that perception is irrational because it implies immanence. She says that judgment of any system or a priori relation of phenomena exists in any rational or metaphysical or epistemological contradiction to an abstracted empirical concept such as being or to be or to occur in the thing itself or of the thing itself. He says he said that many times. She says they must believe in God. He wishes he could see just one miracle, a burning bush or the sea parting or his Uncle Sasha pick up a check. She says they should go back downstairs for the sunset, and the dark blanket of night will cover them all. He says she has been going to finishing school.
As they walk, he asks if she is dating any Russians he should know about. She says Minskov has proposed, and he is sweet and wealthy; but the age difference is too great. She is 28, and he is 81. He agrees that is big. She figures when she is fifty, he will be 103. She says Voskovec made his intentions known, but he deals in herring and always smells of fish. She says he bought her herring-scented cologne. He says that must be why the cat follows her around. She says love is everything and that she wants to meet some man who will scale the heights of passion and who embodies the three great aspects of love—intellectual, spiritual, and sensual. He says there are not too many of us around, but it can be done. She says so many women settle cheaply, and he pities them. She says they marry for money. She feels her life would be wasted if she did not love deeply a man she respected whose spirituality was equal to hers and who had the same lustful appetite for sensual passion that drives her insane. He says she is an incredibly complex woman. She says she is half saint and half whore. He hopes he gets the half that eats. She confesses that ever since they have been little children, she has been in love with his brother Ivan. He is surprised and says he can barely write his name. She says he has true animal magnetism. He says she talked about perfect love but asks if she is hot for Ivan. She says he kissed her, and he asks where. She says he warmed the cockles of her heart. He says hot cockles are great. She thinks he is going to ask her to marry him. He says he is a gambler, a drinker, and has a Neanderthal mentality. He says he loves like a brother but not one of his. She asks if he hears the commotion and wonders what is going on downstairs.
Later a man announces the news that Napoleon has invaded Austria. At last they will have the chance to taste the glories of battle. Boris tells them to check with him when it is over; he will be in the game room. A large man puts his arm around Boris and says they are going to fight. Boris says that man is going to have his head examined. Another man says they are leaving the day after tomorrow. Boris says he is a pacifist and does not believe in war. The big man mocks him and says that Napoleon believes in war. He asks what he will do when the French soldiers rape his sister. Boris says he has no sister and asks who they are going to rape. His father tells Boris not to embarrass him in front of his friends. Boris asks what good war is. They kill a few Frenchmen, and they kill a few Russians. Pretty soon it is Easter. Sonja says he can’t be serious because they are talking about mother Russia. Boris says she is not his mother. His mother is right here, and she is not going to let her youngest baby get shrapnel in his gums. His mother pushes him away, and his father says he can’t believe what he is seeing. Mikhail says their brother has a yellow streak down his back, but Boris says it runs across. Sonja says he is a coward, but Boris says he is a militant coward. Ivan grabs Boris and says they will get medals. Boris tells him to take it easy and cut down on his raw meat. His mother says Boris will go and fight. She hopes they will put him in the front lines. Boris thanks her and says she is his mother. The discussion breaks off. Boris goes to Sonja and says this is crazy because he can’t shoot a gun; he was meant to write poetry. He says he is not the army type. He slept with a light on until he was thirty; he can’t shower with other men. Ivan calls to his friends and announces that because they are going into battle, perhaps never to see their loved ones again, he wishes to announce that tomorrow he intends to marry the woman he grew up with, Anna Ivanova. Sonja is surprised and disappointed. Ivan tells her he is sorry and that he should have told her. He goes to Anna. Sonja says she has an announcement too. She says Minskov proposed to her, and she will marry him tomorrow. The old man stands up, feels a pain in his heart, and falls on the floor. Then she says she means Leonid Voskovec the herring merchant. He smiles and takes her hand.
Outside Boris has his butterfly collection and net, and the carriage starts off with his brothers. His parents chase Boris, and he gets on the back of the carriage.
In an army camp soldiers march while Boris keeps dropping things. The drill sergeant calls Boris forward and says he is the worst soldier he has ever seen and calls him an ignoramus. He asks if he wants a dishonorable discharge. Boris says yes or a furlough. The drill sergeant asks if he loves Russia. Boris says he does, but he does not want to be carried away and make it a career. The drill sergeant says he is to clean the mess hall and the latrine, and Boris asks how he will tell the difference.
Boris has trouble with his bayonet and rifle. He is unable to pull his sword out and runs from the other soldiers.
At a dining table Voskovec says that the war is affecting the herring business. The ports are blockaded, and shipments are more difficult to obtain. This naturally hurts him. Sonja is falling asleep as he explains that there are hundreds of kinds of herring each with its own history. He asks if she is okay, and she wakes up. He says he has talked long enough and suggests that she and the man there play.
Voskovec goes upstairs with a fish while Sonja plays piano, and the man plays violin. He stops, and she asks why. He says she is one of the most beautiful women he has ever seen. She says she thinks he is a mad fool. He wants to put his arms around her, and she thinks he is impetuous. He indicates he wants to kiss her. She stands up and says that would be wonderful. He kisses her, but she tells him not to. She says they just ate, and he says her skin is so beautiful. She says it covers her whole body. He says he must have her. She tells him not there because it is a rented piano. He embraces her and kisses her again. Voskovec comes in and asks if she saw a jar of wine sauce. He sees that she is playing violin while the man is playing the piano. Voskovec shakes his head and leaves. The man stands up and tells her to come to his quarters tomorrow at three. She says she can’t because it is immoral. Then she asks what time. He asks who is to say what is immoral. She says morality is subjective. He says subjectivity is objective. She says that moral notions imply attributes to substances which only exist in relational duality. He replies it is not an essential extension of ontological existence. She asks him not to talk about sex so much. He says he is sorry, and she tells him to go.
A soldier on a stage announces to soldiers they are leaving for the front tomorrow. He says they are to kill as many Frenchman as they can while they are trying to kill Russians. If they kill more Frenchmen, they win; but if the French kill more Russians, the French win. Boris asks what they win. The soldier tells him to imagine his loved ones conquered by Napoleon and forced to live under French rule. He asks if they want them to eat that rich food with heavy sauces, and the soldiers says no. He says because they are getting a three-day furlough before going into battle, they are going to show them a little hygiene play.
A soldier and a pretty woman come on stage. She says goodbye and says she hoped he had a good time. He says he did but asks what is the sore on his lip. He asks the doctor who says he has a social disease. If he does not treat it, he will go blind or insane. The soldier comes back as they leave and the soldiers applaud. He tells them to have a good time on their furlough but look after themselves. The soldiers stand up to go, and one asks Boris what he thought of the play. Boris gives a scintillating review of their acting, and the soldier says he plans to spend the next three days in a brothel. Boris says he only went to a brothel once and got the hiccups. He wants to visit someone in St. Petersburg.
Boris with his Uncle Nikolai and aunt enters a box in a theater. Nikolai is glad he is spending his furlough with them because he is their favorite nephew even though he is a coward. Boris asks his aunt for news of Sonja, and she says that Sonja is unhappy with Voskovec and takes lovers. He asks who a beautiful woman is, and his aunt says that is Countess Alexandrovna (Olga Georges-Picot), the most enticing woman in St. Petersburg. Nikolai and Boris agree she has ample bosoms. His aunt says she was recently widowed. Nikolai says her husband died in her arms trying to satisfy her prodigious sexual desires. Boris bets he died with a smile and asks who the man with her is. His aunt says that is her current lover, Anton Inbedkov (Harold Gould), but she notes that she is staring at Boris who says he bets he could work something out with him. He would let him warm her up for a few minutes, and he would come in at the end and finish her. Nikolai warns him to be careful of Anton who has a furious temper and has killed several men in duels because of his jealousy over the Countess. Boris says he thinks he will watch the opera. During the overture to Mozart’s The Magic Flute the Countess and Boris make faces at each other. He pulls out his sword and pants like a dog.
During intermission his aunt says there is something about Mozart, and Boris suggests she is responding to his music. His sword comes loose and causes a disturbance. The Countess asks who he is, and Boris Grushenko bows as his sword pokes another lady. He says he goosed her. The Countess says he has a sensitive face, and he says that is just the part of him that shows. Anton asks if Grushenko is the young coward that all St. Petersburg is talking about. Boris says he is 35. Anton says he is the one who is so afraid for his safety that he is reluctant to defend his country. Boris asks her if he is in a bad mood, and he asks him if he does not like his seat. She invites Boris to visit her for tea someday because she is sure they would have much to talk about. He offers to bring the tea bags and says he will run a quick check on her erogenous zones. He asks about the Dybbuk, and Anton asks why she persists in taunting him in public. He threatens Boris not to come near her, or he will see that Boris never sees the light of day again. Boris says that if a man said that to him, he would break his neck. Anton says he is a man, but Boris says he meant a much shorter man. From above Sonja calls to Boris, and he calls her name.
Sonja comes down the stairs and says he looks so handsome in his uniform. Boris says he has a perfect build for clothes. He says she looks beautiful. She says she is unhappy. She quarrels frequently with Voskovec, and she has become a scandal. She says she spent weeks visiting a man’s room and begins to list her lovers. He asks how many she has, and she asks if he means in the midtown area. She says her life is ruined. She says she can’t stand Voskovec because he has reduced the world to a small pickled fish. He says she needs someone to take her away from Voskovec, someone who loves her and has always loved her and always cared for her deeply. She asks how his brother Ivan is. He says he is all right. He says he went through basic training and fast, and they made him a major. She asks if he ever speaks of her. He says that when he was sick and delirious, he called her name. She is excited and says then there is hope. He says his regiment is leaving tomorrow to go to the front. He says they are badly outnumbered by the French, and there is very little chance that any of them will come back. She asks what he said about her. She realizes he is going to the war and tells him to dress warmly and have a nice time. She walks away.
Boris is marching with the Russian soldiers and says he does not want to fight. He asks what difference it makes whether they live under the Czar or Napoleon. He says they are both crooks, but the Czar is taller. A soldier asks him who he thinks should be running the country, and Boris says the serfs because they are the only ones who know how to do anything. They laugh at this, and a man asks about the criminals or the Jews. Boris says some Jews are smart, but he heard that their women don’t believe in sex after marriage. He is asked if he is married or has a sweetheart. He says he is in love with a girl who is married but in love with another married man. He says it is a healthy situation. A soldier shows him a clump of his wife’s hair. They come across several dead soldiers. Boris says the army cooking will get you every time. A soldier says God is testing them, and Boris asks for a written test.
Cannons fire during a battle as soldiers advance toward each other. Boris says it looks different when you are in the middle of it than it does for the generals on the hill. Boris crosses swords with a French soldier, and his sword gets bent. He says they started the battle with 12,000 men, but only fourteen survived. They got a message from the Czar to keep up the good work.
That night Boris is burying bodies. A priest tells him that mercifully God was on their side. Boris says it could have been much worse if he wasn’t. Vladimir Maximovitch (Tony Jay) comes to him, and Boris says he is alive. Vladimir says he is dead and shows him the hole in his forehead. Boris says he looks better than he did when he was alive. Vladimir asks a favor and tells him to take a ring back and get his deposit of 1,600 rubles. Boris says he could have got that ring for 1,200. He tells Boris to take the deposit to Kiev and give it to Natasha Petrovna and get a receipt. Boris asks why since he is dead, and Vladimir says it is for tax purposes.
Sonja comes into the bedroom and asks what happened. A man says he was cleaning his pistol, and it went off and lodged in his heart. She asks if it is serious. He says he may last ten minutes. She sits on the bed and asks Voskovec why he was cleaning his pistol. He says he was going to fight a duel to defend her honor because a Turkish cavalry officer cast aspersions on it. He said she was sleeping around, but he knew he was lying. The priest and two other men standing there laugh and cough. She admits she could have been a better wife to him. She could have made love with him more often or even once. He says once would have been nice. She says he was a kind and loving husband, generous, and always considerate. She asks the man if he has about eight minutes left. The man says he has about three. Voskovec says he is swimming out to the open sea like the great wild herring. He dies. The man tells her that he realizes this a big blow for her, but she should not let herself be consumed with grief. The dead pass on, and life is for the living. She guesses he is right and asks where they want to eat. Two men argue about the restaurant, and she suggests a tavern by the square that makes sausage.
Boris finds himself lost behind enemy lines. He hides in a large cannon and faints. When he awakes, he realizes his mistake. The cannon is lit and rolls down a hill. Boris is blasted out and lands on a tent of French generals. He says his brother Ivan was not so lucky and had been bayoneted to death by a Polish conscientious objector.
In a church Sonja and Ivan’s wife are praying for Ivan, and Sonja says she loved him. His wife offers her his moustache and some string. They both loved him because he saved string. His wife divides his letters and gives her the vowels.
At a party Boris kisses the hand of the Countess who wishes she could show her appreciation for what he did for Russia. He says he may be able to think of something. She suggests they meet in her room later, and he suggests in five minutes. Anton sees Boris is back from the war. Boris says he would have stayed longer, but they ran out of medals. Anton says he learned his heroism was inadvertent. Boris scoffs and warns her Anton is asking her a trick question. She tells Anton to fetch her carriage, and she will join him momentarily. Boris tells “Quasimodo” that it was nice seeing him again as Anton walks away. She suggests her room at midnight, and Boris asks if she will be there too. She says naturally and puts his gloved hand on her bare chest.
At midnight Boris comes into her room and sees the Countess in sexy underwear. She asks if he would like some wine to put him in the mood. He says he has been in the mood since the late 1700s. She says he is disgusting, but she loves him. He says that is his best feature. She takes his arm and says it must be lonely at the front. She asks how long it has been since he made love with a woman. He answers two years. She assumes he remembers how, and he asks her to help him get started. She kisses him and lies on the bed. Later they are in bed naked. She says he is the greatest lover she ever had, and he says he practices when he is alone.
On a street Anton comes up to Boris and slaps him with his glove and asks if they shall say it is pistols at dawn. Boris says they can say it, though he does not know what it means. Anton says he has insulted the honor of the Countess. Boris asks why since he let her finish first. Anton says her seconds will call on him, but Boris says he never gave her seconds. Anton says that as her fiancé his seconds will call on Boris’s seconds. Boris replies that his seconds are out and that he should call on his thirds or fourths. Anton walks away. The man with Boris tells him he is serious and that he must meet him on the field of honor. Boris says he will duel with him because he is a marksman and a killer. The man says his honor is at stake, and he slaps Boris who asks if this is “slap Boris day.” The man says he is a war hero, and a duel with Anton is nothing to fear. Boris says he does not want to waste a bullet. He says he will go see him and give him a chance to apologize. If he doesn’t, he will move to Finland.
Sonja is reading a book, and Boris comes in behind her and covers her eyes and asks her to guess who it is. She says she knows those hands and guesses old Nehamkin. She sees it is Boris who says he brought her a present, long earrings. She thanks her cousin, and he says he is twice removed. He says tomorrow he may be removed completely. She asks what it is, and he sits down and asks if she is scared of dying. She says she is not scared but frightened. He asks for God to give him some sign. She says he was made in his image. He asks if he wears glasses. He mentions nothingness, nonexistence, and black emptiness. She asks what he said, and he says he was planning his future. She asks why he is so preoccupied with death. He says tomorrow morning he is fighting a duel with Anton who is much better at it. He will probably be killed, and he tells her he loves her. He has always loved her since they were kids. He was heartbroken when she loved Ivan, but he still loved her. She asks why he did not say something. He asks if it would have mattered, and she says of course not. He asks if by some miracle he is not killed tomorrow, will she marry him. She asks what the odds are. He does not want to die before the harvest of wheat. She thinks this is her chance to do something kind for a dying boy. She loves him but is not in love with him. She thinks he loves her and would make a devoted husband, though not very exciting. She thinks they could have a family, not theirs but they could rent one. She could learn to love him with six rented children. She wonders if she would be trapped and suffocated. She could promise him anything to make him happy for a night. She tells Boris that she will marry him, and he kisses her. She asks if Anton is a good shot. She says since this may be his last night on Earth, she suggests they go to her room and make love. He says he will bring soy sauce.
Boris and Sonja are under the covers. He comes out and puts on boxing gloves and goes back under.
In the snow Anton and three men are waiting. Boris arrives with two men and says he overslept. He says he does not want to shoot anyone before his morning tea. A man implores them to come back to their senses; they can still call this off by mutual consent with no loss of honor. Boris says he agrees and will hop back in bed. Anton says they will do it now and to the death. Boris says he can’t do anything to the death. He has an ulcer, and death is the worst thing for it. Anton tells them to begin, and Boris chooses a pistol. The man tells them the rules and wishes them both good luck. Boris and Anton stand back to back. As the man counts to ten, Boris turns after two steps and walks behind Anton. When Anton turns, Boris ducks down and gets behind him again, trying to stay behind him. Finally Anton sees him and backs up a few steps. They point their pistols at each other, and Anton shoots Boris in the arm. Boris looks at the blood and asks if it comes out with dry cleaning. The man says he must shoot. Boris says he does not want to shoot. The man says he must shoot. Boris shoots in the air, but his other arm is wounded. Anton says he learned a great lesson. Boris says he learned not to shoot in the air when you are standing under it. Anton walks to him and asks how he can repay him. Boris asks him to get off his toe. Anton promises that he will lead a new life. He will preach goodness and maybe join the church. He will lead a righteous life. He will devote his life to his singing, and he starts to sing. Boris does not like his voice and thinks he should have shot him.
In a church a priest pronounces Boris and Sonja man and wife. He kisses her and says he is so happy. She is shocked that he missed.
At a country house in bed Boris tells Sonja that he has no bad habits but a few eccentricities. She says she does not love him. She says she loves him but is not in love with him. He asks if she knows what love means. She says there are many kinds of love, and she dreamed of love between two extraordinary individuals. He touches her, but she tells him not to because sex without love is an empty experience. He says as empty experiences go, it is one of the best.
At the table he drinks wine, but her glass breaks in her hand. He notices things are tense but that she relaxed when she knocked the candelabra off the table.
In bed Boris tries to touch her, and Sonja says not here.
Sonja and Boris struggle to carry her heavy soufflé which causes the table to collapse. To save money they eat snow. They play music in the evenings.
Sonia says she loves Boris in a deeper way than she ever thought was possible. She wants to have children with him, and she says she is happy. He says some men have it, and some don’t.
Boris feels the next months are the happiest of his life. They cavort in the woods.
One day Boris starts thinking about committing suicide. His friend says he is happily married, and his work is going well. Boris says something is missing. He feels an empty void at the center of his being. The man suggests he may have sickness of the soul. Boris sees Death with Krapotkin and a woman, and he asks where he is taking him. Death says he is taking him away forever. Boris says goodbye and asks him to write if he gets a chance.
Sonja steps on the long beard of Father Andre and says he is the most wrinkled man. She says everyone thinks he is senile, but she does not think he is. He asks where the fish was caught. She says Boris is trying to commit suicide. Andre tells her to tell Boris that he has found after many trials and tribulations that the best thing is twelve-year-old girls. She is disappointed, and he forgives her, putting his hand on her breast.
Boris hangs himself in a barn and realizes that he wants to live and engage in oral sex with Sonja. He decides to live and become a great poet.
Boris sits by the fireplace and writes. He writes a line and throws the paper in the fire.
Boris and Sonja become friends with the village idiot Berdykov. They hope to have a child in the spring.
War breaks out again, and Boris tells her that instead of parents they are going to be refugees. He says they have to pack their things and flee. He is a champion at fleeing. They have to burn their food so that the French won’t get it. Sonja gets the idea to assassinate Napoleon. He says it is late and time to start dinner. She suggests the two of them kill Napoleon. She says it is the answer to all their problems. He says it is not the answer but an answer. He says it is the wrong answer because the correct answer is to flee. She says the French have occupied Moscow, and his headquarters are there. She says they could work their way in to see him. He says they would never get near him. They would probably miss because he is small. She argues it would be a truly heroic act. He asks when murder became a heroic act. She says violence is justified in the service of mankind. He asks who said that, and she says Attila the Hun. He asks if she understands that murder carries a moral imperative which transcends any notion of inherent universal free will. She calls that jejune. She goes to get Ivan’s old pistol. He says violence leads to violence. He runs out of clichés, and she asks if he is suggesting passive resistance. He advises active fleeing. She says he can’t run away all his life. He says murder is the foulest of crimes. This would not be abstract murder on a battlefield but killing a famous human being face to face. He goes on about how successful and wealthy and great Napoleon is, and he thinks like a superman. Boris compares himself to a worm or crawling bug. He says she can stop him, and she says she will when she disagrees. Sonja says the first time in her life she feels free and alive. She looks out the window and describes the changing sky and shoots the pistol which breaks a vase. He warns her to be careful because it might be loaded.
Boris and Sonja leave in a carriage with Berdykov whom they take to the village idiots conference at Minsk. They stop at an inn and learn that Don Francisco (Lloyd Battista) of Spain and his sister are eating behind a screen and are going to visit Napoleon. Boris goes over and talks to them and buys them a drink. He heard they are going to see Napoleon, and they state clichés. He asks if they know Napoleon, and they laugh. Francisco says they know his brother, but this will be their first meeting with Napoleon.
Sonja says she is having trouble adjusting her belt and asks Francisco to help her. Boris has been hiding and hits him on the head with a bottle that shatters. Boris takes another bottle and keeps hitting Sonja by mistake. She finally passes out, and Boris knocks out Francisco too.
A carriage travels with an armed escort.
Napoleon (James Tolkan) tells two chefs that it should have more cream between the crusts and no raisins. He says they must develop the Napoleon pastry before the British develop beef Wellington. An officer comes in and tells Napoleon that they have discovered a plot to kill him. He shows him a private they have dressed up to look like him. Napoleon says he will teach him to walk like he does. The officer tells another officer that with Napoleon out of the way, they only need to kill Don Francisco. He says that will prevent a treaty with Spain. Then he will go to Austria and form an alliance with the crown. He says they will remember the name of Sidney Applebaum.
A servant lets in Sonja and Boris who says they are there to see the Emperor. They say they are Don Francisco and his sister. Sidney comes over and asks their names and wants to hear their proposal for a treaty. Sidney says they will be wined and dined, and he offers Boris a woman or two.
Boris and Sonja are in an elegant room, and she advises him how to kill him. He tells her to lull him back there after dinner, and he will shoot him.
Boris and Sonja are drinking wine with a few people. Napoleon is announced, and Boris and Sonja repeat what Napoleon says to them.
At dinner Sonja assures Napoleon that she finds him attractive. They agree to meet in their rooms after dinner.
Sonja is sitting on the bed. Boris is about to knock on the door when a knife misses his head and sticks in the door. Sonja hears the sound and tells him to come in. He says he has been thinking about the murder. He says if everybody acted like this, it would affect property values. She says not everyone does the same thing. She says he said himself there is no right or wrong; it is what you choose. He says he chooses danger and gets the pistol out of the chest. She wishes they could be children again, and he prefers being French children. She says the only truly happy person she knows is Berdykov. She asks him to kiss her and asks for number eight. He says that is two fours and kisses her. They hear a knock, and she says she is coming. She takes a drink, and he looks for a place to hide. She lets in Napoleon who pours champagne he brought. He suggests they go to bed and says he always heard that Spanish blood is the hottest. She says she had hers cooled for the summer, and he says she can set the pace. He kisses her and rests his head on her shoulder. Boris aims the pistol but trips and shoots wildly. Sonja says that was the breeze, and Boris hides behind the sofa. Napoleon says for her he would conquer all of Europe. Boris accidentally throws the pistol, and they react to the sound. Napoleon says the Russian underground would like him dead, and he has to be careful in occupied territory. He says every day is another encounter with death. Boris tries to put powder in the pistol. He holds the pistol to the back of Napoleon’s head, and Sonja tells him to go ahead. Boris says he can’t, and Napoleon stands up. Sonja tells him to shoot, and Napoleon says she is over eighteen. She tells him to kill him, and he says no. She knocks Napoleon out with a bottle and says they are not there on a vacation. He says he will bleed on the carpet. She takes the pistol and asks why she can’t do it. Boris says it is morally wrong. They discuss the philosophical issue. He says it is a moral imperative and by killing Napoleon she is killing herself because she is involved in a total absolute. She says he is being pantheistic. He says they are related to a giant oneness. He says he is coming to and tells her to give him a shot. She takes the bottle and hits him again. He says it is an ethical question, and she tells him not to quote Thomas Aquinas again. He says you should never kill a man.
He takes her by the hand, and they run out and down the stairs. She stops and says he may burn half of Europe. He hopes it is the half with their landlord. She asks if they should do it for their children or their parents. She says she is going back to kill him. He tells her to pull the carriage out front, and he will go kill him.
Boris looks at Napoleon on the floor and thinks about Socrates and homosexuals. He thinks about the different sexual types and believes lawyers don’t have sex at all. He feels guilt and remorse for the human race. He wonders what to do and loads the gun, and it goes off. Sidney comes and tells two soldiers to arrest him for murder, though he only killed an impostor.
They take him and put him in a damp jail, but the French food was not bad. Boris talks to an old man, and the conversation has several titles from novels by Dostoyevsky. The old man shows him a tiny piece of land with a tiny house on it.
At night in jail Boris talks to an angel of God who tells him that the Emperor will pardon him at the last moment. Boris believes there is a God. He thinks about how the wicked man will be given to his enemy. He decides to run out of the shadow of the valley of death.
Soldiers come in, and Boris says they are late because it is past 6:30. They take him to a wall, and he says he wants to see the bullet. The firing squad aims and is ordered to fire.
Natasha tells her cousin Sonja that she is in love with Alexi, but he is in love with Elisha who is having an affair with Lev. He loves Tatiana who loves Simkin, and he loves her. She tells how they love. Sonja says to love is to suffer, but one also suffers from not loving. Therefore, either way one suffers. Natasha says she never wants to marry; she only wants to get divorced. Sonja sees Boris out the window and calls to him. He is standing next to Death and says he got screwed. A vision came and told him he would be pardoned, but then they shot him. She says he was her one great love. He thanks her very much and asks her to excuse him because he is dead. She asks what it is like, and he says it is worse than the chicken in Tresky’s restaurant. He walks away with Death, and she closes the window. She says life must go on, but soon they will be covered by wheat.
Boris says he is dead, and they are talking about wheat. He asks if he learned anything. He says humans are divided into mind and body. The mind embraces the nobler aspirations like poetry and philosophy, but the body has all the fun. He says it is important not to be bitter. If it turns out that there is a God, the worst you can say about him is that he is an under achiever. He says there are worse things in life than death, like spending an evening with an insurance salesman. He says the key is not to think of death as an end but an effective way of cutting down on your expenses. Regarding love he believes it is not the quantity of your sexual relations that count, it is the quality. However, if the quantity drops below once in eight months, he recommends looking into it. He says that is it for him and says goodbye.
This comedy satirizes Tolstoy’s great novel War and Peace while using contemporary humor. Boris and his cousin Sonja are two of a kind who both like sex; but when they get together, their intercourse tends to be philosophical.