Captain Alexander Blom is a malicious man, he constantly and brutally beats his son, Johannes, and wife, Alice, both physically and psychologically. He wears them down until they become empty and hollow, ghostlike figures without will that are completely dependent upon the evil Alexander. The story begins in the plots presence, with Johannes coming ashore in his hometown, after seven years on the seas. He seeks and finds his true love Sally but she is not the strong and self-reliant woman she was when he left, she is now weak, cowardly and without hope. Bergman then rewinds the time seven years, displaying what happened back then that led to this gruesome reality. It is a film about what it takes to dare something, to have the courage to leave your destructive, boring and diminutive life and what has to be sacrificed on order to get a fresh start and a chance for beingness among the living.