Eric and Julia are cadets at a military academy where a professor has been arrested for sympathising with enemy propaganda. Their society is fighting a cold war in which their side believes in free will, while enemy propaganda denies free will to demoralise them. Julia sympathises with the professor; she starts a debate in the barracks. Some of the tough-guy cadets misunderstand the topic and start beating each other with batons to see who has the "will" to endure. Julia, disgusted, takes off. Eric follows her to an orchard on the grounds. Julia says the authorities' obsession with free will makes them cruel. Eric agrees. They kiss. That night, Eric dreams Julia wants him to stroke a snake; when he refuses, she calls him cruel. Then he dreams he's with the guys from the barracks, beating the professor with a baton. The professor HISSES at him . The next day, there is a mass shooting on the parade ground. One of the tough guys is the shooter; all the cadets from the barracks debate are blamed and arrested. As Eric and Julia are taken to court martial, Eric reflects anew on the academy's emblem: an angel with a flaming sword.
The Army Orchard is a political-philosophical thriller inspired by fall of Adam and Eve in Genesis 2-3. The film uses the best-known Bible story as a way into three contemporary debates: is free will real, and to what extent does a stable society depend on the concept? How should societies interpret and counter disinformation and propaganda from their adversaries? What is the relationship between propaganda, radicalisation, and terrorism? The serpent (who has enjoyed a post-Genesis career as a perennial villain in propaganda art throughout the ages) is dramatised here as a subversive intellectual accused of corrupting the youth. Eric and Julia are young people, newcomers to their political environment, just as Adam and Eve were newcomers to the world. They exist under a stern authority that prizes free will above all, but in their youthful curiosity, they carelessly subvert this idea, come to know good and evil, and experience the wrath of that same authority.