The movie begins with an elderly Chinese man in New York recounting a story: While China is in the throws of a world war and civil war, Ying-Er, the daughter of a theater owner, is cheered up by the arrival of her penpal friend Shaodung from America -- who she assumes has come to propose. But there is a bit of a deception. He hasn't been studying finance in New York but has become an accomplished cellist studying at Julliard. The theater has been showing an opera "Fleeing by Night" and its famous actor-singer is Lin Chung. Suffice to say, Shaodung is captivated by Lin Chung and his voice and through a very complex and multilayered series of developments, the elderly gentleman turns out to be Shaodung.
This movie provides a rich example of how love can help bring the shadow into consciousness when our ego consciousness cannot make a direct relationship. This movie is definitely a tragedy but one worth watching with your significant other because it celebrates, it is tragedy, the possibility of a life worth living.