In 1900, Stepha, the vivacious 30 year old daughter of a wealthy couple, agrees to marry her cousin Paul, who has accumulated large debts as an Austrian army officer. Paul refuses to work or to consummate the marriage, and then his health steadily declines.
A young film director is turning a movie with his friend Christa (reminds us of the real-life relationship between Garrel and Nico). In the film-within-the-film there are two couples, one real, one imagined , and the film - told through five dreams - is as much the story of a film on-production, as the birth of a child.
An American, working for his oil company in China, disregards all but the company's interests. " The characters and the institution portrayed in the story are not actual but the product of fiction. The oil business was chosen because light has ever been symbolic of progress."