The young Riccardo Molteni, who sees himself as an intellectual writer, despises his work of preparing scripts for tasteless film productions. All this to support his new wife Emilia, the new apartment he has taken, the new car he has bought, the maid who cooks and cleans for her, and the secretary who types for him. He is educated and can recite Dante extensively, her impoverished family could not afford an education, and she had to work as a typist.
But the spark of her marriage has died out, and two small incidents lead to its dissolution. First, Emilia Riccardo catches Riccardo kissing the secretary, a misstep that he dismisses as meaningless. Then the brazen producer Battista invites them to his house in Rome. Since he has a two-seater car, he takes Emilia with him and has Riccardo follow in a taxi. The taxi breaks down and leaves Emilia alone with Battista. She interprets this to mean that Riccardo rejects her and offers her to Battista to boost his career. She tells him that she now despises him and will sleep alone.
The two are invited to Battista's villa in Capri, where Riccardo will work on the script for a production of The Odyssey. There he sees Battista tearing Emilia's dress apart and kissing her body, while in the Odyssey he sees disturbing parallels to his own unhappy life. In a mood close to suicide, he has a vision by the sea of the loving Emilia he first knew and who has returned to reconcile. When he finds his balance again, he returns to the villa and finds that she has died in an accident with Battista's car.
"Il disprezzo" served as the basis for the film Le Mépris by Jean-Luc Godard (1963), in which Brigitte Bardot lolls fabulously on the terrace of Villa Malaparte in the Capri sun and Fritz Lang plays the film director Reingold.
Sure, it's difficult to highlight a book by Alberto Moravia. And then not even locate it in his colosseum Rome seems wrong? Let's start with Jean-Luc Godard's film adaptation. The images of the Villa Malaparte, the crushing gaze of Brigitte Bardot and Fritz Lang flash up as pure gold. Of course, "Contempt" dazzles without this glittering support. In this masterpiece, the seemingly insurmountable contrast between intellectual subtlety and dreadful wealth finds a resolution, which can still be felt today in the crashing Capri sun between boutiques catwalk and the I Fortini walkway, the terrace of the Hotel Quisisana and the old café Kater Hiddigeigei, the paparazzi piazza and the Walter Benjamin board and Lenin statue. Alberto Moravia's books are "of burning topicality", "like sunburn" enthuses the writer Albert Ostermaier. I do know all about sunstroke, after all.