Paul Javal, a young French playwright who has found commercial success in Rome, accepts an offer from vulgar American producer Jeremy Prokosch to rework the script for German director Fritz Lang's screen adaptation of the Odyssey.
Paul's wife, Camille Javal, joins him on the first day of the project at Cinecittà. As the first discussions are completed, Prokosch invites the crew to join him at his villa, offering Camille a ride in his two-seat sportscar. Camille looks to Paul to decline the offer, but he submissively withdraws to follow by taxi, leaving Camille and Prokosch alone. Paul does not catch up with them until 30 minutes later, explaining that he was delayed by a traffic accident. Camille grows uneasy, secretly doubting his honesty and suspecting that he is using her to cement his ties with Prokosch. Her misgivings are heightened when she sees Paul grope Prokosch's secretary, Francesca. Back at their apartment, Paul and Camille discuss the subtle uneasiness that has come between them in the first few hours of the project, and Camille suddenly announces to her bewildered husband that she no longer loves him.
Hoping to rekindle Camille's love, Paul convinces her to accept Prokosch's invitation to join them for filming in Capri. Prokosch and Lang are locked in a conflict over the correct interpretation of Homer's work, an impasse exacerbated by the difficulty of communication between the German director, French script writer, and American producer. Francesca acts as interpreter, mediating all conversations. When Paul sides with Prokosch against Lang by suggesting that Odysseus actually left home because of his wife's infidelity, Camille's suspicions of her husband's servility are confirmed. She deliberately allows him to find her in Prokosch's embrace, and in the ensuing confrontation she declares that her respect for him has turned to contempt because he has bartered her to Prokosch. He denies this accusation, offering to sever his connection with the film and leave Capri; but she will not recant and leaves for Rome with the producer. After an auto crash in which Camille and Prokosch are killed, Paul prepares to leave Capri and return to the theater. Lang continues to work on the film.
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