Shortly after marrying Louis (Daniel Auteuil), a French militar officer, Jeanne (Emmanuelle Béart) must face solitude as Louis is sent to fight in World War II. While waiting for his return from a POW camp, Jeanne gets involved on different affairs with his husband's comrades-in-arms. When he finally returns home and finds out about his wife's cheating, he forgives her and offers her freedom, but she refuses to accept and they come back together. Looking for a new life, the family (now with two twins) move to Berlin, where Jeanne meets Matthias, a german industrialist who falls in love with her. A third child is born and shortly after, Louis is summoned to the First Indochina War, forcing his family to return to France.
During his husband's absence, Jeanne gets involved in an affair with Matthias, who has followed her to France. They try to escape with the children but their attempt is frustrated by Louis' brother. Louis returns home and, in an attempt to get Matthias out of her life, Jeanne uses her influence to move the family to Damascus. Despite her apparent success, she asks Matthias to go to Damascus and take her with him. When he shows up, Louis fights him but is severely injured by Jeanne. The family returns to France, where Louis is asked to fight in Algeria. Haunted by loneliness and despair, Jeanne once again finds Matthias, but he breaks up with her for good. Louis returns and meets his family, but he has to part again. During his absence, Jeanne dies without a cause, but he later finds in her purse a newspaper clipping informing of Matthias' death.