In 1912, Szczebieniew, a rich and ailing old man, comes to Italy with his young wife, Zinaida. Bored with his company, she looks for amusement and casual affairs. Szczebieniew is aware of it but he hopes that at least this way she can bear him an heir. However, he makes sure that she is always accompanied by Emelianow, Szczebieniew's servant and confidant. One day, in a movie theater Zinaida meets Ernesto Fosca, a young Italian violinist. She asks him to give her music lessons. She doesn't conceal her affection for him and they end up spending a night together. In the morning, though, Emelianow tells Ernesto that it was all planned.