[INT. Scottie’s Bedroom (NIGHT)]
There is no dead matter. Lifelessness is only a disguise behind which hide unknown forms of life.
(Bruno Schulz, “Treatise on Tailors’ Dummies, or The Second Book of Genesis”)
Vertigo Vertigo Vertigo
In this book, a man goes through a painful divorce. He believes his wife has cheated on him, and she maintains her innocence. They scream at each other about every little thing. Any time she’s late, even by a minute, any time she has to leave the house early or unexpectedly. He starts checking her computer, her cell phone. The whole thing goes on in the only way it can until the two finally decide they can’t live with each other anymore. We never learn whether the wife really was cheating on the husband. She takes a job in another city, and the man grieves. He loved his wife, but he couldn’t stand the thought of her cheating on him. It is, he thinks, the thought that she didn’t love him as much as he did her, that in some way, she had the better end of the deal, because she could just walk away. He gets upset thinking about it. He thinks that this thought is itself a sign of some sort of instability. He starts seeing a therapist.
This man is an instructor at the university. One of his students looks almost exactly like his ex-wife, though he does not see the resemblance. The whole thing is related to us by a third-person narrator, not the man, who tells us that the student looks like the ex-wife, and tells us the man doesn’t realize it: The student is a brunette and his wife was a blonde, but in other ways, the two are nearly identical. The student graduates and takes a job in publishing. The man sells his next book, a study of the film Vertigo, to the publishing company she now works for. The two reconnect at a party and begin seeing each other. The man’s friends mistake this former student for the man’s ex-wife. They comment on how young she looks, how much they like her hair, how good it is to see the two of them together—all these innocuous comments that are just vague enough they don’t tip off the man or his student that the man’s friends think that she is really his ex-wife. The student has never met the ex-wife, and the man doesn’t have any pictures of her—too painful; he has thrown them away—so she has no idea that she looks so much like the ex-wife.
The man and his former student decide to get married. They go to visit the former student’s parents. It is an awkward visit. The parents are polite, but it is clear they do not approve—there is the difference in their ages to consider, and the fact that she is his former student. On the last night of the visit, the father asks the man to accompany him on his nightly walk. While they walk, the father tells the man a story. Continue reading