Germinal is the story of a miners’ strike during the Second Empire, recounting their passion, suffering, rebellion and comradeship.

At barely 20 years of age, Etienne Lantier, flees Lille after assaulting a superior. He finds refuge in the coal mining town of Montsou, where he befriends a veteran miner Maheu who secures him a job pushing the carts down the pit and offers him a place to stay.

He discovers the harsh working conditions of miners and the daily humiliations endured by the workers. However, he decides to stay, partly for the beautiful Catherine, Maheu’s daughter.

Overtime, Etienne’s skills improve but the conditions do not. When he and his comrades are fined for deficient woodwork tempers flare and Etienne plans a revolt. However, he did not anticipate the enthusiasm and chaos his ideas raised.