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.