Timberlake Wertenbaker’s adaptation from the French of Marcel Proust’s allegorical reflection on time, memory, art and love.
It begins with the vivid memory of a young boy’s childhood summers spent in the French countryside of Combray and the long nights waiting for his mother to come and kiss him goodnight. The young Marcel takes beautiful walks with his parents and has his first sighting of the young Gilberte Swann, daughter of family friend and well-connected Parisian Dandy, Charles Swann and his wife, the courtesan and seductress Odette de Crecy.
In the second part of Marcel Proust’s allegorical contemplation on time, memory, art and love, Parisian dandy and intellectual socialite Charles Swann falls in love with the coquettish courtesan Odette de Crecy.
Swann is a regular guest at the musical soirees of Combray aristocrats, the Duke and Duchess of Guermantes. Odette is introduced to Swann and persuades Madame Verdurin, the rival socialite of little distinction, to invite him to one of her musical soirees. She does and Odette and Swann soon fall in love.
It is not long however before Odette’s past catches up with her as Swann struggles to control his emotions.
Charles Swann and his lover, the courtesan and seductress Odette de Crecy, struggle as their relationship finds itself under the scrutiny of the bourgeoise social climber, Madame Verdurin. Swann tries to steer Odette away from this vulgar gaiety but finds he has competition.
Meanwhile, going forward in time, young Marcel and his family have moved to Paris and, in the Champs Elysees, he falls in love for the first time, reinforcing his desire to become a writer.
Marcel is rejected by Gilberte Swann in Paris and we move on a few years, as Marcel visits the seaside town of Balbec with his Grandmother and stays at the Grand Hotel. It is here that he meets three people who will have a significant and lasting impact on his life – Albertine Simonet, Robert de Saint Loup and the Baron de Charlus.
Marcel and his beloved Grandmother return from Balbec at the end of the season and move to a new flat in Paris which is owned by the Duke and Duchess of Guermantes. Marcel becomes obsessed with the Duchess and is desperate to be introduced to her and invited to one of her famous musical soirees.
He visits his new friend Robert de Saint Loup, nephew of the Duchess, at his barracks with the aim of securing an introduction to the Duchess via her nephew. But will the Guermantes’ soiree live up to Marcel’s expectations?
Meanwhile, his Grandmother takes a turn for the worse and an invitation from the Baron de Charlus is received.
Following a strange and unsettling encounter with the Baron de Charlus, Marcel learns sad news from Swann and receives an invitation to the Princess of Guermantes’ party Later, he returns to Balbec where he bumps into Albertine Simonet and her friends, including Andree.
His affections waver between Albertine and Andree before he makes a decision.
At a soiree organised by Madame Verdurin, Marcel meets the young composer and musician, Morel, whom he recognises as the son of a former servant. Morel is unwilling to acknowledge his past as he pursues his new life as a musician and becomes closer to the influential Baron de Charlus who is a loving supporter, but the tailor, Jupien, may know more about the Baron than Madame Verdurin and her circle.
After being reunited with Albertine Simonet in Balbec, Marcel proposes. They return to Paris to live in his apartment, but the relationship is complex and Marcel begins to mistrust her, regularly allowing his jealousy to get the better of him.
Meanwhile, the Baron de Charlus is helping to plan the marriage of young composer, Morel, to Jupien’s niece, but how successful can this marriage be?
Madame Verdurin agrees to host a soiree with guests invited by the Baron de Charlus, but his high-handed manner will cost him dear by the end of the evening.
Albertine and Marcel’s relationship grows more impossible and she leaves him. Marcel enlists the help of his old friend, Robert de Saint Loup, to persuade her to return, but a telegram from Albertine’s aunt brings shocking news.
Marcel has his first article published in a newspaper and visits the Guermantes in Combray where he encounters his youthful amour, Gilberte.
Back in Paris, his growing friendship with Andree finally enables him to learn the truth about Albertine’s life. Secrets continue to be revealed as Marcel travels to Venice with his mother and and there is surprise news from Robert.
Still recovering from the death of Albertine, and with war looming, Marcel visits Gilberte in Combray and they discover their perceptions of the past are conflicting.
Times are changing as cultured society becomes more open and at least one aristocratic marriage ends in divorce.
It is 1914 and Robert de Saint Loup prepares for a war he believes will be very short – but, as the war continues, dark rumours circulate about the Baron de Charlus and Marcel inadvertently stumbles across the truth.
Society and culture are changing and suddenly it is the Verdurins who are socially on the rise as the Guermantes’ influence fades, like time.
The Baron de Charlus has a stroke and, in his vulnerability, reveals more of his heart to Marcel.
Gilberte enlightens Marcel on the complexities of the lives and relationships of people they know and Marcel can finally reflect on time. He discovers he has found the inspiration at last to write his book. He will become the writer he has always yearned to be.