In 1938 Italy, Mussollini was in power and Marcello is working underneath him - joining him in his fascist views. In one assignment Marcello is asked to travel to Paris to kill an old professor that fled Italy once Mussollini gained control of Italy.
Marcello learns that the man he is to kill is Professor Quadri, his old teacher from college. Here he learns that he must either continue to conform to the system he has been ingrained in or whether he should abandon the fascist viewpoint in order to save a man he's long been respectful of.
The drama itself is wonderfully played out - Marcello's dilemma is engaging and the character is played well by Jean-Louis Trintignant. He is aided well by the other three leads of Marcello's wife (Stefania Sandrelli), the professor (Enzo Tarascio) and his wife (Dominique Sanda).
Unfortunately the variety of genre often takes away from the main storyline and it also makes it easy to mix up some of the more minor characters who play a bigger role at the end of the film. It is difficult to understand whether to take the film seriously, laugh at the humour or feel empathetic towards them.
Overall engaging, but occasionally confusing. An English version would be thoroughly worth a watch though.