Silvia grows up in miserable circumstances. Her father is an incurable drunkard who neglects his family. His first daughter was still-born, the second died at an early age and the third was only eighteen when she became insane and died. When her father goes off on another spree, Silvia is left to look after her sick mother. She is successful in obtaining an engagement with a theatrical company. With the money received in advance, she buys the restoratives her mother needs, but when she comes home she finds her mother lying dead on the floor. Some years later Silvia is one of the country's best-known and most-loved actresses. After the successful première of a play by an unknown dramatist, Silvia gives a little party for some of her colleagues: the actors Louis, Pepi and Fré, her jealous rival Floor and the elderly actress Cosima who lives with and sponges on Silvia. An admirer arrives with flowers. It is René Raneck, the author of the play. Silvia and René fall in love and plan to marry.
However, Silvia is worried by the first symptoms of a strange illness, spells of dizziness and an occasional loss of memory. Reluctantly she asks her doctor to call. Questioning her about her youth, he hears that her father died during a bout of delirium tremens. The doctor tells Silvia that she must never marry, implying that she is a victim of heredity. Determined not to ruin René's life, Silvia writes to him, breaking off their engagement, but without telling him her reason. She then retires to the countryside. Floor insinuates that Silvia is having an affaire with one of the actors. When Silvia meets René again, for the reading of his new play, he angrily rejects her, saying that he believes she simulated love for him only to get beautiful rôles. He adds that the leading rôle in his new play is to be given to a triumphant Floor, whereupon Silvia collapses.
Some time later, deserted by her so-called friends and reduced to poverty, Silvia's health rapidly deteriorates. Comforted by her faithful maid Rika and by her confessor, Silvia dictates to the priest a last letter to René, in which she declares that she has always truly loved him. René comes, but only to find Silvia on her death-bed. Clasping René's portrait to her breast, Silvia breathes her last.
- One of the tipplers
- Silvia as a young girl
- René Raneck
- Silvia as a young woman
- Silvia's father / Priest
- Manager of a theatrical company
Geoffrey Donaldson, Of Joy and Sorrow. A Filmography of Dutch Silent Fiction, Amsterdam 1997, p. 109