In this monumental Romanian film, a large family and its many generations vie for advantage, seeking to win the inheritance sure to be left behind by a wealthy older man of the clan. This movie is based on a very long and popular novel by George Calmescu, and is similar in some ways to England's BBC television series, The Forsythe Saga, based on Galsworthy's books. Along the way, stories of friendship, love and rivalry emerge. In one story, a poor young man is disappointed in love as his girl chooses lucre over love in selecting a mate.
Otilia is both blessed with a body that is the epitome of feminine perfection and cursed by an ugly mole that mars her beautiful face. The juxtaposition between fabulous beauty and disfigurement proves unsettling for the villagers and she grows up friendless, save the family's hired hand Melquíades. Though most figured she would end up as a prostitute, she is married off to Isidro, the local police chief. Cruel and petty, this ogre of a man brutalizes her and eventually infects her with venereal disease, rendering her sterile. With the help of Melquíades, Otilia takes a series of lovers to spite her husband. One day, the wounded Ruben -- a wanted outlaw -- staggers onto her doorstep and immediately she is in love. Much to Melquíades' chagrin, she harbors and tends to the criminal as her husband is out hunting for him.
Otilia Ruiz is the last link in a chain of women, marked by tragedy. Otilia looks desperately for an exit, but she doesn't know that, after entering the dark streets of Tierra Negra, anything will be the same anymore.