In 18th century southern Italy, favoured by the king, promising young soldier Baron Sergio Giuramondo (Sands) is to marry a duchess (Kinski), but finds that she was previously the monarch's lover. Proudly turning his back on court life, he becomes a monk; but such is his disillusionment with society, that he presently elects to live alone in a desolate hermitage on Mount Petra. Even there, however, his quest for truth and spiritual perfection comes under threat, both from an adventuress bent on seducing him, and from the priests and pilgrims who believe him a worker of miracles. In their characteristically sensitive, imaginative adaptation of Tolstoy's Father Sergius, the Tavianis again address philosophical and political questions (the value and perils of retreat, the place of pride in idealism) in a simple, lucid style that lends the story the magical power of myth. Though Giuseppe Lanci's camerawork is consistently elegant, the way the Tavianis pare down composition, dialogue, narrative and performance to essentials ensures a clarity of purpose and effect rarely encountered in contemporary cinema.