Protagonist Genezip Kapen is 18 at the start of the movie and he quickly ascends to Bohemian circles of artists and philosophers who scream senseless philosophical quips at each other. We follow "Zip," or "Zipcio," through his journeys into sexual decadence, a military career, and other events. He encounters a rambling composer who's constantly at his piano, an aristocratic woman who is a sexual predator, an actress who tortures men mentally and physically, all while fears spread across post-World War I Central Europe that the "Chinese Flood" is invading, having proceeded West like a wall across the continent.
The novel in some ways eerily predicted Stalinism and Communist brainwashing. Witkiewicz even commit suicide in 1939, as the Soviet Union invaded Poland, some say as his fears came true. But the core story, of the complex interweaving European philosophies in that era, remains clear in the movie.
There are some key tonal shifts in character from the book that the movie omits, which is a disappointment. And again, it would be nice if it had been more creative and perhaps diverged from the book more. Also, if the production had a higher budget than a deadwood episode.
I recommend it, but be warned, there is graphic nudity, sex, BDSM scenes, even coprophagy, in this film.