The great Kenji Mizoguchi, who also did Ugestsu and Sansho the Baliff, directed this movie about a successful printer named Ishun who treats his wife Osan and almost everyone else badly.
When Osan needs money to help her family she goes to Mohei, one of her husband's assistance, instead of to Ishun, who she knows will refuse her. Mohei forges a document to get the money she needs, but then admits it to her husband. Ishun then accuses Mohei and his maid, Minamida, who took responsibility for asking for the money, with having an illegal affair.
Osan has been harassing his young maid and Osan is going to confront him about it, but then she is accused of being unfaithful with Mohei. When accused Mohei and Osan both realize that they are in love with each other. When Mohei is arrested they escape and take off together.
The movie ends the way it began, with a couple accused of adultery being paraded off to be crucified. In feudal Japan adultery on the part of women was not tolerated. In this movie all of Ishun's wealth was taken away because he did not make an official report about his wife.
On their way to the crucifixation, Mohei and Osan holding hands and smiling. They no longer have to put up with the indignities that life had given them. Masaki Kobayashi made a similiar statement in his Harakiri, and Samurai Rebellion.