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The Mind Screen

Identification Desire and Its Cinematic Arena

Georg Schmid

For well over a century cinema has exerted enormous influence, yet many questions regarding its fascination remain unanswered. Films work so well because the viewers tend to unconsciously identify with the actors/actresses. The desire to become another, substituting identity by identification, can be traced to the illusion that the filmic heroes/heroines are immortal – identifying with them raises the possibility of gaining «deathlessness.» Viewers can, without real life risks, experiment with the existential drafts presented; the power of imagination is mobilized. Based on a multidisciplinary approach (semiotics, psychoanalysis, cultural anthropology, plus a healthy dose of film history), this book presents prolegomena of a philosophy of cinema.

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26 What to Do about Erroneous Perception?

Extract

It will not have escaped the notice of some that so far I have shown quite some restraint as to full-blown “theories.” Some suppositions, the odd surmise, yes, but not the heavy stuff. Before pushing a little further, let us first briefly recapitulate what I have made an issue of. Prudently, and often stealthily, I have intimidated that it is nonsense to discard Freudian thoughts (nota bene: advanced and further developed ones, the man was a historical figure as everyone else, you’ve got to cut him some slack). I have insinuated that everybody leads a dream life in the sense that he/she at least now and then wants to be another (or others), and that there is the aspect of desire (perforce at least partly an erotic one). I have also asserted that experiences–and that is indeed a major point–are not only made in “real life” (which at any rate is overvalued: most of our knowledge and capabilities are ac- quired second or even third hand). And I have cautiously approached the question how our brains work when faced with “pseudo-reality,” i.e., that secondary reality which is best expressed in and by films (though much the same questions arise when we talk about other works of art, mainly novels). Well, then. What signifies, and how? Turning to the “science” of signification and how it comes about and is produced, we could think of the semiotic square. Simply imagine a rectangle and assume that each corner has a specific...

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