Based on Arthur Schnitzler’s play, a story of lovers changing partners makes a full circle.
In Vienna in 1900 Raconteur (Anton Walbrook) sings a waltz and sees Leocadie (Simone Signoret) on a merry-go-round. She asks the soldier Franz (Serge Reggiani) to come with her for free, and they kiss. Franz hears a bugle and runs off.
Franz and Marie (Simone Simon) leave a dance and find a bench. Then he goes back to the dance without her. The Raconteur shows Marie her new house, where she is a maid. She writes to Franz. Alfred (Daniel Gélin) asks Marie for a glass of water. He summons her again and closes the shutters. His French tutor is about to come, but the Raconteur tells him that Alfred is not there. Alfred tells Marie that he is going out for a walk.
Married Emma Breitkopf (Danielle Darrieux) secretly comes to see Alfred. He removes her veils and keeps kissing her hand in her lap. Alfred gets some wine for her, and she finds a bed. He tells of Stendahl’s Love, and they discuss being friends in bed but become more. Emma leaves in a carriage. She and her husband Charles Breitkopf (Fernand Gravey) are in bed, and she is reading Stendahl. They kiss goodnight. Charles says that husbands are not always lovers. She asks if he has loved a married woman, but he warns her to avoid such women.
The Raconteur provides a salon for Charles and Anna (Odette Joyeux) for dinner. She says that her last boyfriend was like him. Charles pays the Raconteur and says he was carried away. Charles tells Anna that he does not live in Vienna, and she says he must be married. He offers to rent a house for her so that he can visit her often.
The poet Robert Kuhlenkampf (Jean-Louis Barrault) has come to see Anna, and they talk. He asks her to take off her dress and slip. Charles pays the Raconteur at the restaurant and wonders what happened to her. Robert tells Anna that she will see his play.
Charlotte (Isa Miranda) comes off stage, and in her dressing room she makes plans with Robert. Anna waits for him. Robert slaps Charlotte and kisses her. The Count (Gérard Philipe) enters Charlotte’s room. She says that she knew he would come. They enjoy love in the morning, and she wants to see him tonight.
The Count asks the Raconteur if he knows him. The Count does not go to the theater but spends the night with Leocadie, who reminds him of someone. In the morning she says he was drunk. The Count leaves with his dog and salutes Franz. The Raconteur says that is the circle.
This chain of romance seems to celebrate promiscuity and suggests that love is always moving forward to someone else, reflecting the loose sexual morality of modern Europe.