Cargo 200 begins in 1984 with the introduction of two brothers: a Soviet Army colonel, and the head of the Faculty of Scientific Communism at Leningrad University. The university professor travels to visit his mother in a remote town. When his car brakes down, he stops at a rural farmhouse occupied by a husband, wife and their Vietnamese farm hand. The professor engages in a philosophical argument about the existence of God with the family patriarch, whose heated criticisms of official atheism are fueled by Utopian dreams and vodka distilled in the family barn.
Meanwhile, a young man and the daughter of a Soviet secretary of a regional party committee meet at a party. The couple decides to take a drive, and their destination is the rural farmhouse. Lurking in the shadows of the farmhouse is Zhurov, a character vaguely based on Russian serial killer Gennady Mikhasevich. Although Mikhasevich was simply a depraved lunatic, Balabanov presents Zhurov as an emblem of both human perversion and the manifest corruption of the Soviet government. Zhurov s appearance signals a series of loathsome events that form the rest of the film’s narrative.