Leo Auffmann wakes up one morning, in bed next to his wife Lena, and goes to the window. He hears the world singing to him and wonders what the occasion is, and then decides that he has to pay back. Lena wakes up and wonders who they owe, and Leo dresses and goes to his garage. Inside is the detritus of his life, things he's collected over the years. He starts making up a blueprint for his plan and then places toys and knickknacks atop it. His son Saul comes in and asks what he's making, and Leo says that he's making a happiness machine. Saul puts a flower on it and Leo tells him that it's complete.
Later, the family assembles for breakfast and Lena asks what he's making. Leo insists that it's a machine to make joy and happiness, and he's taking a vacation from work to complete it. He walks around the neighborhood, writes down notes, and takes photos. He then returns home and asks Lena what makes her life happy. She admits that she doesn't know and it's better not to ask, and then complains when she burns the roast because her husband has distracted her.
Leo returns to his workshop and tries to figure out what happiness looks and sounds like. He realizes it should be bright and goes to work, building a structure to contain his machine. As he works, Lena tries to deal with the children as her husband is obsessed with her project, working late into the night. Finally he comes into the house and announces that his happiness work is finished. He then passes out from exhaustion.
Later, Leo wakes up and discovers he's in bed late. Lena brings him breakfast and tells him to give it up. That night, Leo tries to sleep but hears the machine crackling in the workshop and hears Saul cry out from inside it. He goes to investigate and finds Saul back in bed, and wipes the sweat off his cheek. Lena comes in and looks at him. The next morning, Lena calls the trash removal company to get the happiness machine removed in two hours. Leo protests and says that he'll have to prove to her that it works in two hours.
Leo brings the happiness machine out of the workshop and invites her in. She reluctantly gets in and Leo wishes her bon voyage as he closes the door. Saul protests but Leo tells him that it's okay and invites the children over as Lena activates the machine. She looks at the pictures projected at her in wonder and smells flowers, and listens to the music as it plays. The machine starts to shake and Leo realizes that something is wrong. Lena calls out, asking to be released, and he finally gets the door open.
Outside, Lena explains that the machine is the saddest thing ever. She knows that everything she saw isn't real and explains that eventually they have to come out of the machine and face real life again. Lena points out that people don't want perfect temperature, or a sunset that lasts forever. She tells him to make do and Leo wonders what to do now. Lena says that it's not for her to say, but they'll use the machine against their judgement and won't be a fit family. The disposal men arrive and Leo refuses to let them take the happiness machine away. Lena takes the children inside as Leo looks on.
Leo sits on the porch in despair, ignoring his family. Saul finally sits next to him, sees the sun setting, and asks if it's a sunset. Leo agrees and Saul goes back inside. Leo then goes to the happiness machine and gets inside. He wonders how he could be wrong and turns on the machine. It burns out and he hastily gets out. Saul comes out and they look on as the machine goes up in smoke. The others come out and Leo tells them to let it burn.
Eventually they call the fire department. Once they put out the fire and leave, Lena tells him to look in all the windows and consider what they have. Leo looks into the house and sees his four children, playing music and drawing pictures. He comes in and tells her that what they have is a happiness machine. Share this article with your friends