The morning after a late night, Lieutenant Grigory Kolokoltsev has a fight with his father, General Kolokoltsev. He is then transferred to a remote infantry regiment in the Tula Region, stationed near Yasnaya Polyana — far away from the hustle and bustle of the capital and his father’s protection. On the train on his way there, Kolokoltsev meets Count Leo Tolstoy, who invites the young lieutenant for a visit to his estate.
Upon arrival to his quarters, Kolokoltsev meets the regiment’s commander Yatsevich, who is unjustifiably strict with the soldiers. One of the most harassed soldiers is the military clerk Vasily Shabunin, who is forced, among other things, to falsify the records in the regiment’s account book, to cover up numerous acts of embezzlement of the regiment’s property by the higher-ranking officers. Soon, however, the fraud is discovered, and all the blame is laid on Shabunin. During an interrogation, Shabunin loses it, and slaps Yatsevich in the face, an offence that — according to the recently introduced military regulations — is punishable by death. Kolokoltsev tells this story to Tolstoy, and the 38-year-old count, who is working on War and Peace, decides to act as Shabunin defender at the court-martial.
The Transfer is about the choice that each of the characters of the film faces. It highlights the very ease with which one can cross the borderline dividing the good from the evil, and how this borderline inevitable transforms into a divide between freedom and incarceration, life and death. The film is also a reminder that even those actions that most will deem insignificant are irreversible. It also sheds light on the abyss of jurisprudence, which consumes an individual, and which, like a mirror, reflects the morals of a society.
Later, Tolstoy would write, “This even had a more profound effect on my entire life than any other event that would seem more significant: the lost and regained financial fortunes, literary successes and failures, and even the loss of the near and dear.”