Jonathan Zimmermann, a picture framer in Hamburg is diagnosed as having leukemia. Ripley, an American art dealer who deals in forgeries, uses this fact to arrange for a mob associate of his to recruit Zimmermann as a hit man. Zimmermann agrees to this to ensure his family’s financial future. Zimmermann descends into a nightmare world of deceit and double dealing. The narrative acts as a metaphor for the relationship between American (Hollywood) and post-war German culture. The appearance of several Hollywood directors in cameo roles underlines this.