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In Montparnasse during the early 1900's, Jules, a shy, serious German, and Jim, an easygoing Frenchman, form a solid friendship, sharing a common interest in the arts, sports, and women. On a visit to a Greek island, they discover a statue with a smile that fascinates them. Shortly after their return to Paris, they meet Catherine, a capricious and whimsical young woman whose smile reminds them of the statue. Both men fall in love with her, but Catherine marries Jules and returns with him to Germany. War breaks out, and the two friends, fighting on opposite sides, live in constant fear of shooting each other. After the armistice, Jim goes to Germany to visit Jules and Catherine and their 5-year-old daughter, Sabine. He discovers that Catherine has been having affairs with other men and has left Jules, returning after a number of months. Jules is uncertain that she will stay with him for long but remains willing to settle for the little attention his wife still shows him. In time, with Jules's assent, Catherine begins to have an affair with Jim. Though Jules gallantly offers to give Catherine a divorce, she grows dissatisfied with Jim when she fails to become pregnant. Jim returns to his mistress Gilberte in Paris, and one day meets Jules, who has returned with Catherine to live in France. The three of them have a reunion at a country restaurant, and Jim announces that he is planning to marry Gilberte. Later, Catherine asks Jim to come for a ride with her and drives away, shouting to Jules to watch closely. She goes a short distance down the road, turns onto a washed out bridge, and drives the car into the Seine. Jules makes funeral arrangements, sees the bodies of his wife and best friend cremated, and then silently leaves the cemetery.