This bleak late soviet-era drama follows the career of Malyanov, a young medical school graduate who has been sent to work in Turkmenia. Here he runs into a hodge-podge of people of differing ethnicities, all of them victims of the government's earlier mania for relocating and eliminating whole ethnic groups and classes of people. These desperately unhappy people are unable to find any pleasure in this diverse companionship, but instead are antagonistic to it, and often resort to desperate measures in their doomed attempts to ease their pain.
Jesus (Willem Dafoe), a humble Judean carpenter beginning to see that he is the son of God, is drawn into revolutionary action against the Roman occupiers by Judas (Harvey Keitel) -- despite his protestations that love, not violence, is the path to salvation.
Nada, a down-on-his-luck construction worker, discovers a pair of special sunglasses. Wearing them, he is able to see the world as it really is: people being bombarded by media and government with messages like "Stay Asleep", "No Imagination", "Submit to Authority".
Two men answer the call of the ocean in this romantic fantasy-adventure. Jacques (Jean-Marc Barr) and Enzo (Jean Reno) are a pair of friends who have been close since childhood, and who share a passion for the dangerous sport of free diving.