Luchino Visconti's first film was based on James Cain's thriller 'The Postman Always Rings Twice', which was also made into a French film in 1939, and was turned into the celebrated Hollywood movie by Tay Garnett, in 1946.
The theme of the story is the destructive power of sexual passion. Gino turns up by chance at a roadside country inn, stays on as a labourer; Giovanna, the inn-keeper's wife, and he, fall in love. They decide to leave together, but after half an hour on the road, Giovanna changes her mind, and Gino goes off alone.
A few weeks later, her husband, Bragana, and Giovanna meet him again by chance in a nearby town, and Bragana, innocently, insists that he go back with them. On the journey the lovers, mainly at her instigation, murder the husband in a staged accident.
They settle down uneasily to run the cafe, but mutual distrust grows when Giovanna collects Bragana's life insurance, and he starts to suspect her of having used him to serve her own financial interests. In retaliation, he spends an afternoon with another girl, but slips away when he realises that the police are closing in. The lovers are reconciled, but as they drive away to escape imminent arrest, their car skids off the road and Giovanna is killed.