A landowner's son (Robert De Niro) and a peasant's son (Gérard Depardieu) are enemies in Italy.
This expansive period drama follows two childhood friends in northern Italy during the early 20th century. Alfredo Berlinghieri (Robert De Niro) and Olmo Dalcò (Gérard Depardieu) grow up as close companions despite their class differences. However, they drift apart as adults, Alfredo embracing his landowning heritage and Olmo championing workers' rights. As the years go by, they see the rise of fascism in their country, and eventually their values find them directly in conflict.