Russia, 1918. Jakob Seel, spiritual leader of his village, has just upset the Ukrainian chess master. But in beating the old man, he has unwittingly made an enemy out of his young son, Nikolai; who, in time, will take revenge on Jakob when he least expects it.
Fast-forward to the era of Stalin, 1938. Due to the Soviets removing Jakob from his position as leader of the village, the 60-year-old former teacher struggles with his growing sense of worthlessness. One day, he agrees to a woman’s request to conduct a funeral service for her brother, even though he knows it is forbidden to do so.
Thrown into a Soviet detention camp, Jakob and his fellow political prisoners find themselves under the heel of an older and more ruthless Nikolai. Unknown to them, Nikolai takes his old vendetta against Jakob beyond the scope of anything they could have imagined. One by one, during the night, prisoners mysteriously begin to disappear.
To help distract them from their terror, Jakob consents to the prisoners’ request to form a choir. In doing so, he unexpectedly begins to find the sense of worth he had craved. As he rehearses the men, he gains their respect, especially that of the embittered prison bully, Bruno.
Then one day, the man responsible for Jakob’s arrest is also imprisoned. Now he faces the test of his life — to see if he’s ready to forgive the unforgivable.
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