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After 10 years, the marriage of Lidia and Giovanni has become empty and meaningless; their only bond is mutual lethargy. Late one afternoon they visit a dying friend, Tommaso, in a Milan hospital. Distressed by the thought of death, Lidia leaves his bedside and weeps in anguish. When Giovanni rejoins her, he confesses that he allowed himself to be seduced by a nymphomaniacal patient in the hospital. Lidia, however, remains unmoved by the confession. They then attend a cocktail party celebrating the publication of Giovanni's latest book. Bored with the pseudo-sophisticated guests, Lidia steals away and wanders through the city, observing with fascination and revulsion the life around her. At dusk she telephones Giovanni from a park and asks him to pick her up. Back home, she tries but fails to reawaken Giovanni's sexual desires, and then she suggests they go to a nightclub. After watching an erotic dance, they attend a party given by a millionaire who wants Giovanni to become his director of literary publicity. While at the party, Lidia calls the hospital and learns that Tommaso has died. As she watches Giovanni unashamedly pursuing Valentina Gerardini, the millionaire's daughter, Lidia's despair drives her to flirt with a young playboy; but she is soon bored and returns to her husband, whose pursuit of Valentina proved fruitless. At dawn they leave the party, and Lidia reads Giovanni a love letter he wrote years before. He fails to recognize it and is suddenly forced to face the shallowness of his life. He tries to rekindle their love by making advances to Lidia; at first she resists, but gradually she yields.