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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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29 Identity with Oneself?


Ever since Freud–or, for that matter, Frege–one of the most debated fields some- where between psychology and anthropology, ontology and phenomenology has been the conundrum of self-identity and group identities. Decades ago I wrote a book one chapter of which was entitled “Sinn und Bedeutung”–a clear reference to Frege. It was a rather clumsy attempt to differentiate between mind and con- sciousness on the one hand and meaning and signification on the other, but it soon became clear to me that there was no meaningful, true, linguistic correspond- ence between the connotations of the German terms and those in other languages. Needless to say, that’s not due to a particular quality of German; it results from virtual non-translatability between all languages (supposedly equivalent terms nearly never are coextensive). Neither is it simply caused by different philosophi- cal traditions: it is rather a matter of how the instruments of social understand- ing are charged with comprehensibility, and that is to a large extent dependent on socio-cultural idiosyncrasies. Furthermore, it is actually determined by the degree to which the accent is placed on individuals rather than on a whole society or vice versa. Individualism and volonté générale, for example, are quite incompatible. Some years later, when I resolutely turned to Freud & Co as well as to semiol- ogy, I had to realize that one is not only confronted with permanent constructions of meaning but also with an extremely shaky relation between what is usually re- ferred to...

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