In the early 1810s, Poles, part of Russia's client state of Lithuania, think independence will come if they join forces with Napoleon when he invades Russia. This unity of purpose, in one district, is undermined by two families, feuding since the head of one shot the head of the other twenty years before. There are hopes of a reconciliation through a marriage of Pan Tadeusz, a Soplica, whose father, the murderer, is in hiding somewhere, and Zosia, a teen-aged girl, a Horeszko who lives in the household of Pan's uncle. Other cross-currents - of love, family, politics, village traditions, land reform, and what it means to be Polish - give the film texture. It's an exile's story.