A quiet French peasant has spent three years as a corporal on the front lines in World War I, and one day he cannot take it anymore and goes AWOL, escaping into the Alps in the southeast of France. He first takes leave of his wife before heading into the mountains and manages to survive in the breathtaking, vast landscape while using all the knowledge and wiles under his command. Even though the area around him is fairly isolated, another deserter arrives on the scene -- but he cannot take the solitude and leaves. As the peasant diligently works at his own survival, the police from the region know he is hiding out somewhere within their jurisdiction, and so his future is anything but secure. This subdued, pacifist film strives for distance rather than emotional involvement, so as to present a pacifist cause as reasonably as possible, but as a consequence, the routine of the deserter's existence verges on a grinding boredom.