Why did she not want to come out with me, why is she suddenly comfortable with spending time by her self, why does she sleep on the sofa, why didn't she make up after our last fight, are her confidences genuine? Is her love dying?An insistent urge to analyze every tiny bit, every deviation from consistency or every possible deviation from consistency. An insatiable desire to discuss these doubts with her and clear every question. To that point where she begins to question it herself -
Yes, there must be something wrong. Have I stopped loving him. Yes, that's right, I must have if he feels it so. Why did I stop?- and then finding a reason somewhere.
This is what a modern-day scriptwriter does to his relationship. Continuously analyzing, agonizing, speculating reasons for what he thinks is a contemptuous attitude from his wife. He meets a producer who is his promise to a better future, but when the producer begins to make subtle and and then overt advances towards his wife, he is caught in doubt about how he must react.
The agonizing has a lot to do with his intellectualism. But the agony indirectly also raises questions on how a modern man is supposed to balance his id and superego, (or rather) the expectations from his id and superego. When another man tries to court his wife within social confines, is he expected to play the game and ignore the attempts, or like the provincial man challenge him to a duel of honor. As he worries in indecision, his id rebukes him, he begins to experience contempt for his inaction, and believes that his wife must hate him for it. A feeling that soon becomes contagious and spreads to the wife and rest of his social circle.
In a brilliant parallel, Moravia draws Ulysses into the story - the film-makers begin to make a modern-day adaptation of Odyssey (not the 'debasement' that Joyce did, by making great heroes into morose losers. as a character proclaims), but an adaptation which showed the Odyssey as Ulysess' attempts to stay away from his wife and her contempt. I am not sure if Moravia is cracking a joke on the psychoanalysts or is he too far gone to actually start analyzing every tale with a parameter of human consciousness. In either case, it lends an interesting touch to the book, especially by placing a parallel between a great hero and his regular protagonist.
Moravia's writing is excellent - in it there is much thought and consciousness, which though destructive in real life, is engaging. He seems to get into even the woman's head - without ever narrating the story from her perspective. As he describes her actions, they seem to carry an acute awareness of her thoughts and sentiments.
I saw the film adaptation Le Mepris immediately after reading the book. It is much different in form, but faithfully follows the theme. Godard has summarized the story events in 2-3 days, and more than agonizing, has followed the confusion over action and inaction - provincial and modern. The movie is beautifully subtle and silent against Moravia's excessive thought. I liked it a little less than the book, but adaptations always suffer from this malady.