In 1900, young English poet Christian sits in his room in the Montmartre district of Paris and begins to write about his love affair with Satine, the star of the notorious Moulin Rouge nightclub: A year earlier, the idealistic Christian ignores his father’s advice and moves to Montmartre to join the Bohemian revolution that has swept through Europe. Eager to write about truth, beauty and freedom, but above all else, love, Christian realizes that he cannot because he has never been in love. At that moment, an Argentinean, unconscious from a bout of narcolepsy, crashes through Christian’s ceiling. The Argentinean is joined by his friends--Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, the Doctor, Audrey and Satie--who are rehearsing Spectacular, Spectacular , a musical play espousing their Bohemian ideals. The group persuades Christian to stand in for the Argentine, and when Christian surprises them with his talent, Toulouse suggests that he write the play with Audrey. Audrey leaves in a huff, but the remaining Bohemians persuade Christian that despite his inexperience, he must write their play, which will be staged at the Moulin Rouge. In order to persuade Harold Zidler, the club’s impresario, to hire Christian, Toulouse schemes to get Christian a private audience with Satine, who is known as “The Sparkling Diamond.” To stiffen Christian’s resolve, Toulouse plies him with absinthe, and, fueled by the hallucinogen, Christian enters the Moulin Rouge. Dancers such as Nini Legs in the Air, Arabia, China Doll and Môme Fromage take the stage, and Christian joins the throng of wildly gyrating men. Christian is awestruck by Satine’s entrance as she is lowered from the rafters on a trapeze, and while she performs, Zidler whispers to her that the wealthy Duke of Monroth is in the audience. Satine, a courtesan, is fearless in her determination to seduce the Duke and obtain his help in becoming a legitimate actress, but mistakes Christian for the real duke. Toulouse sneaks Christian into Satine’s boudoir, which is shaped like a giant elephant, and there, Christian recites poetry to the courtesan. Satine is baffled by his shy reaction to her attempted seduction, but when Christian sings a song about his feelings for her, the couple fall in love. As they are embracing, however, Satine learns that Christian is merely one of Toulouse’s penniless protégés. As she attempts to usher Christian out, Zidler approaches with the Duke, and Satine is forced to hide Christian. The Duke is mystified by Satine’s erratic behavior, but is so consumed by lust that he is swayed by her repetition of Christian’s poem. When Satine begins to make love to the Duke, however, a glare from Christian persuades her to throw the Duke out with a promise to consummate their relationship on the show’s opening night. Unknown to Satine, she is suffering from consumption, and the exertion causes her to collapse. The Duke re-enters to find Satine in Christian’s arms, and it is only through the Bohemians’ quick action that she is able to persuade him that they are rehearsing Spectacular, Spectacular . After convincing the Duke to invest in the show, which tells the story of a Hindu courtesan who must chose between a penniless sitar player and a rich maharajah, the Bohemians celebrate, while Christian is preoccupied by thoughts of Satine. Christian returns to Satine’s boudoir, and although she protests that she was acting when she proclaimed her love for him, she succumbs to his charming words. The next morning, the Duke demands that in exchange for his financial backing, Satine be bound to him exclusively, and that Zidler put up the deed to the Moulin Rouge as security. Zidler reluctantly agrees, and so begins an intense and happy period of rehearsals. While continuing to tempt him, Satine eludes the Duke’s advances in order to spend time with Christian, always on the pretext of working. Meanwhile, Toulouse, who is to play the magical sitar, struggles to learn his one line: “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn, is just to love, and be loved in return.” After several weeks, the Duke grows impatient and warns Zidler that if he cannot possess Satine soon, he will depart. As Zidler cajoles the Duke to stay, he spots Satine and Christian kissing, and promises that Satine will come to the Duke that night. After Christian plans a rendezvous with Satine for that night, he leaves, and Zidler storms up to Satine, ordering her to end her relationship with the writer. Satine collapses, however, and while Christian and the Duke wait for her, she languishes under a doctor’s care. Zidler is able to persuade the Duke that Satine, anxious to come to him “like a virgin,” is confessing her sins to a priest, but after he returns home, Zidler learns that Satine is dying. The next morning, the jealous Christian has difficulty accepting Satine’s explanations, and she attempts to end their affair. Christian promises to control his jealousy, however, and composes a song to signal that they will always love each other, “come what may.” Swept away by Christian’s passion, Satine relents, although during a rehearsal, the envious Nini hints to the Duke about Satine’s romance, which is illustrated in the show when the courtesan chooses the sitar player over the maharajah. The Duke then demands that the ending be changed, and in order to protect her friends, Satine agrees to dine with him. Christian pleads with Satine not to sleep with the Duke, but she reminds him of their vow to love each other come what may, then leaves. While the entertainers wait at the club, the Duke lavishes a diamond necklace on Satine and agrees that Zidler can keep the show’s “fairy tale” ending. While standing on the balcony, however, Satine sees Christian in the street and cannot bear to have sex with the Duke. The angry Duke’s attempt to rape Satine is forestalled by a blow from Le Chocolat, one of the club’s performers, who takes Satine to Christian. While Satine and Christian are planning to run away, the Duke warns Zidler that his servant, Warner, will kill Christian if Satine sees him again. When Satine returns to the Moulin Rouge to pack, Zidler tells her of the Duke’s threat, and when that does not stop her, informs her that she is dying. Heartbroken, Satine agrees that the only way to save Christian is to hurt him, and so lies to him that she is choosing the Duke. Despite her failing health, Satine goes on with the show, while Christian, determined to learn the truth, sneaks into the club. Christian confronts Satine and demands that he be able to pay her, like her other customers, and follows her backstage. Just as Warner is about to shoot Christian, the curtain rises and Christian and Satine find themselves onstage. Christian tosses Satine to the ground and throws money at her, then tells the Duke that she belongs to him. As Christian walks away, however, Toulouse remembers his line and shouts it out. The weeping Satine then begins to sing their love song, and Christian rejoins her onstage. The audience roars with approval as the lovers embrace, and Warner’s attempt to shoot Christian is foiled by a dancer. The Duke seizes the pistol but is punched by Zidler and leaves. After the curtain falls, Satine collapses, and as she dies, makes the sobbing Christian promise to write their story. Back at his room, Christian concludes that after overcoming his grief, he was inspired to write the story of their love, a love that will live forever.