During World War II Carlotta, the circus owner maintains herself, her lover and her rather run-down circus-team by illegal man-smuggling. In the year of 1944, besides the usual refugees, she even has to take Professor Máté, the renown mathematician to the Yugoslavian partisans. The team is joined by Carlotta's psychotic son who has escaped from an asylum.
Misery is brought to a small group of Sho in the Kalahari desert in the form of a cola bottle. In his quest to throw the evil object over the edge of the earth, Xixo encounters Western "civilization," a haphazard doctor and a tyranical despot.
A research scientist (William Hurt) explores the boundaries and frontiers of consciousness. Using sensory deprivation and hallucinogenic mixtures from native American shamans, he explores these altered states of consciousness and finds that memory, time, and perhaps reality itself are states of mind.