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In the 18th century, Prosper Thanatier, latest of a long lineage of executioners, exercises with passion his job, which he considers as an art. At the dawn of the revolution, he sees himself forced to abandon his tools and his ancestral know-how, for the benefit of a very new machine of execution. Deprived of his former lifestyle, Prosper does not adapt to progress and refuses to see his role of executioner relegated to a simple machine.