When disillusioned Swedish knight Antonius Block returns home from the Crusades to find his country in the grips of the Black Death, he challenges Death to a chess match for his life. Tormented by the belief that God does not exist, Block sets off on a journey, meeting up with traveling players Jof and his wife, Mia, and becoming determined to evade Death long enough to commit one redemptive act while he still lives.
Karin hopes to recover from her recent stay at a mental hospital by spending the summer at her family’s cottage on a tiny island. Her husband, Martin, cares for her but is frustrated by her physical withdrawal. Her younger bother, Minus, is confused by Karin’s vulnerability and his own budding sexuality. Their father, David, cannot overcome his haughty remoteness. Beset by visions, Karin descends further into madness.
A young nurse, Alma, is put in charge of Elisabeth Vogler: an actress who is seemingly healthy in all respects, but will not talk. As they spend time together, Alma speaks to Elisabeth constantly, never receiving any answer. Alma eventually confesses her secrets to a seemingly sympathetic Elisabeth and finds that her own personality is being submerged into Elisabeth’s persona.
After a seven-year absence, Charlotte Andergast travels to Sweden to reunite with her daughter Eva. The pair have a troubled relationship: Charlotte sacrificed the responsibilities of motherhood for a career as a classical pianist. Over an emotional night, the pair reopen the wounds of the past. Charlotte gets another shock when she finds out that her mentally impaired daughter, Helena, is out of the asylum and living with Eva.
The Queen of the Night enlists a handsome prince named Tamino to rescue her beautiful kidnapped daughter, Princess Pamina, in this screen adaptation of the beloved Mozart opera. Aided by the lovelorn bird hunter Papageno and a magical flute that holds the power to change the hearts of men, young Tamino embarks on a quest for true love, leading to the evil Sarastro’s temple where Pamina is held captive.
After 15 years of marriage, David and Marianne have grown apart. David has had an affair with a patient of his and Marianne has got herself involved with her former lover Carl-Adam, who’s also David’s best friend. When she travels to Copenhagen to meet Carl-Adam, David takes the same train as she does, making it look coincidental. Spending time together remembering their past and talking about their future, they come to understand each other again, which leads to a reconciliation.
Rational, exacting, and self-controlled theater director, Henrik Vogler, often stays after rehearsal to think and plan. On this day, Anna comes back, ostensibly looking for a bracelet. She is the lead in his new production of Stindberg’s “A Dream Play.” She talks of her hatred for her mother, now dead, an alcoholic actress, who was Vogler’s star and lover. Vogler falls into a reverie, remembering a day Anna’s mother, Rakel, late in life, came after rehearsal to beg him to come to her apartment. He awakes and Anna reveals the reason she has returned: she jolts him into an emotional response, rare for him, and the feelings of a young woman and an older man play out.