Emanuel is diagnosed with bone tuberculosis and is confined to a marine sanatorium near the Black Sea. He is soon encased in a heavy body cast, and must spend all of his hours confined to his bed. A highly intelligent young man in his early twenties with a penchant for quoting poetry and philosophy, Emanuel tries to live life to its fullest, keeping up his good humour, arguing over politics with anti-Semites and falling in love with Solange, a recovered former patient – but is it only a matter of time until he, like many other of his fellow patients, becomes resigned to his arbitrary fate?
»I believe that the strength of cinema does not lie in the story or in the different philosophies behind the stories, but in its immense descriptive capacity. I hope this movie will not 'express' something, will not have any 'meanings,' nor convey 'denotations,' I only hope it will show; it will offer the detailed description of an extreme human experience on which to relate with tenderness, fear and respect.« (Radu Jude)