This sweeping German tale of decline parallels two groups of lives caught up in the disintegration of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Beginning just before World War I, the film shows us how Baron Trotta and his coterie barely remember the social ideals which gave their lives a semblance of meaning. Called off to war for four years, when the Baron returns, he cannot find any way to resume his life. The companion group consists of younger down-and outers. At least when they return, they can devote themselves to radical political causes. Of course, when these fail, they find themselves in prison, dead, or having betrayed their ideals by seeking personal prosperity instead of revolution.
by Clarke Fountain synopsis