Henri Fortin is poor and iliterate former boxer. Ziman is rich Jewish lawyer from Paris. During WWII they meet when Fortin agrees to drive Ziman's family to Switzerland. Intrigued by Victor Hugo's novel "Les Miserables", Fortin asks the Zimans to read that book to him during the travel. Before the end of movie every main character would see his character in situations similar to those in Hugo's novel.