This third feature film version of Joseph Conrad's tragic romantic drama (the best of which remains John Cromwell's 1940 adaptation) is the one that stick's closest to the original story of a reclusive, hard-hearted fellow living on a private island in the Dutch East Indies who must protect his home, and the woman he comes to love, from two brutish villains. The story is told by a sea captain and begins at a turn-of-the century hotel in the port town of Surabaya where the Dutch entrepreneurs come to drink and wind down while listening to an all-female orchestra led by creepy conductor Sam Giancomo (Simon Callow). The joint is owned by an unpleasant, bigoted German named Schomberg (Jean Yanne) who constantly pesters the conductor to sell him Alma (Irene Jacob), the prettiest girl in the band. Eventually Sam relents, causing the frightened Alma to beseech taciturn patron Axel Heyst (Willem Dafoe) to help her escape. At first Axel refuses, but then has a change of heart and takes her with him to his lonely island where she will live with himself and his valet Wang (Ho Yi). Initially, Axel wants nothing to do with Alma, but things change and they become lovers. Meanwhile, the vengeful Schomberg plots revenge. He gets a chance to enact it with the arrival of the villainous Mr. Jones (Sam Neill) and his henchmen who turn Schomberg's bar into a gambling house. Seeing that Jones is ruthless and avaricious, Schomberg casually mentions that there is an untapped fortune lying in an abandoned mine located on Axel's island.