powered by AFI
In the famous casino resort town of Wiesbaden, Germany, during the wild, decadent days of the 1860s, young Pauline Ostrovsky, a reformed gambling addict, watches over Fedja, a talented writer whose obsessive love for her and his near-ruination from gambling has resulted in physical collapse. As Pauline reads from the pages of Fedja's most recent manuscript, she is reminded of the time when she first met the handsome writer: Traveling on the Moscow to Paris train, Pauline and Fedja, seated opposite each other, exchange glances in silence until the train arrives in Wiesbaden, where Pauline breaks the silence by coyly suggesting that Fedja follow her. Fedja follows Pauline into the gambling casino, and soon discovers that she, like her father, General Ostrovsky, is a gambling addict. Fedja begins to understand the full extent of the Ostrovskys' gambling illness when he sees both the General and Pauline take pleasure in the news that the General's rich mother is dying, and immediately gamble away the fortunes they expect to inherit. Though repulsed by the world of gambling, Fedja decides to stay in Wiesbaden to undertake a character study of those who thrive on casino life. One such person is the tragically compulsive gambler and thief Aristide Pitard, who steals Fedja's bet and loses all his money at the roulette table. Fedja takes pity on Aristide and gives him enough money to leave Wiesbaden, but Aristide instead uses the money to continue gambling. After losing once more, Aristide shoots himself in desperation, and on his deathbed asks Fedja to return a religious medal that he stole from a young woman. However, Aristide dies before he names the woman from whom he stole the medal. Fedja later discovers that the medal belonged to Pauline when he sees that she is the only person other than himself at Aristide's funeral service. In time, Fedja falls in love with Pauline, to whom he returns the medal, only to discover that the General has arranged Pauline's marriage to Armand De Glasse, the casino's ruthless manager, as a substitute for payment on his enormous gambling debt to Armand. Hoping to win Pauline back, Fedja decides to win enough money to pay the General's debt himself, and begins by betting his life savings at the roulette table. By the time Fedja wins more than he needs to pay the General's debt, he is obsessed with on gambling and continues his betting in a maniacal fashion. Eventually, Fedja's luck runs out, and though he loses everything, he continues to gamble with money he borrows from Armand. After putting up all his writings as security, Fedja, increasingly desperate for money, pawns his last remaining possessions. Fedja, now completely broke, becomes delirious and has a vision in which Aristide hands him a gun to shoot himself. While Pauline tries to help Fedja, he rips the medal off her neck and tries to sell it at the pawnshop. The pawnbroker, Emma Getzel, refuses to take the medal, and Fedja nearly kills her until he collapses and loses consciousness. Pauline's recollection of events in the past comes to a close when she discovers that Fedja has completed his manuscript about the world of gambling and can now pay his debts. Pauline then reassures Fedja that he has not written the last chapter in their story and forgives him.