Mario (Mastroianni), a lonely, recently transplanted professional, encounters the fragile, naive Natalia (Schell), as she weeps alone on a drawbridge. He's immediately drawn to her, but Natalia's crying for a good reason: she awaits her lover (Marais), a former tenant in her grandmother's home, who left mysteriously but promised to return for her in one year. That year has just passed, and there is no sign of him. Mario is conflicted, he could love Natalia, but what happens if the other suitor shows up?
Based on a Dostoevsky short story, Visconti's stark, stunningly composed film lays bare all the core truths about the risks of love. Schell's Natalia is maddeningly emotional, basically a child when it comes to male/female relations. She's devoted to Mario, and could learn to love him, but she still hasn't gotten over the tenant, commandingly played by Marais (via flashbacks). Watch this tender romance and learn how it all turns out.