Bruno Stroszek is released from prison and warned to stop drinking. He has few skills and fewer expectations: with a glockenspiel and an accordion, he ekes out a living as a street musician. He befriends Eva, a prostitute down on her luck. After they are harried and beaten by the thugs who have been Eva's pimps, they join Bruno's neighbor, Scheitz, an elderly eccentric, when he leaves Germany to live in Wisconsin. In that winter bound, barren prairie, Bruno works as a mechanic, Eva as a waitress. They buy a trailer. Then, bills mount, the bank threatens to repossess the trailer, Eva wants privacy, and inexorably, the promise of a new life deserts Bruno.