In Polish Russia, Stoloff (Yul Brynner), a Cossack in exile from his land and family, has gained control over a small Jewish village. The villagers live mainly by horse-thievery, under the leadership of Kifke (Eli Wallach). Stoloff's regime is tolerated with difficulty until he commandeers the village's horses (the sole source of wealth) for the Russian army. Naomi (Jane Birkin) has been away in France, where she has gotten a notion of revolution, and she inspires the town to resistance. This action gets her into deep trouble, from which only the wily Kifke and his assistant Zanvil (Oliver Tobias) can rescue her. Zanvil is particularly motivated, as he is in love with Naomi.