Early '50s. A solitary, disappointed, proud and educated old man meets and becomes the teacher of an intelligent, clumsy, middle-class, young would-be writer. An intense working relationship starts: at first, they are drawn to one antoher, but at the end their liaison becomes quite conflictual.
The film is inspired by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa's biography and by his meeting, in 1953, with Francesco Orlando. The latter, together with Gioacchino Lanza Tomasi, had the privilege to serve an intense apprenticeship with the Prince and, later in life, became an expert in French literature.
Besides Gioacchino, other characters in the movie are the dictatorial and bizarre Lucy - the Prince's wife of Baltic origins interested in Freudian analysis - and a group of young people (Francesco Agnello, Antonio Pasqualino, Beatrice Pasqualino and Mirella Radice) who formed, together with Orlando, a sort of association inspired by the exceptional master Lampedusa.
The film portrays a psychological game in which the award is represented by the passing on of a moral inheritance, or rather the essential meaning of life.
The story is set in Palermo, capital city of an ever increasing corruption: the city is inhabited by a decadent aristocracy that barely survives, in a parasitic manner, and by a greedy, emerging political class ready to sell off the wealth of the past.
The heart of the film is represented by the "Prince’s lessons" in the library. Many literature masterpieces are proposed by Lampedusa and during these moments art is confronted with existence itself and the lessons become a vehicle towards a deeper meaning of life. The room in which the Prince and his student meet regularly becomes the witness to a relationship filled with anger, tension and seduction: a ceremony of initiation staged by a great master who is able to provide a comprehensive view of the world.
The enchanting leader of this wise game hides the inner desire to engage in a more fascinating and cruel challenge: literary with his acting: he throws in all the grieving for his friend's death and the shabby script takes life. Whlle Tea, Gaia and their parents leave town Carlo will take off with Lena in search of adventures, wlth a new awareness of himself and his potential.