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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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37 The Business of Comparing

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Can you compare the incomparable? That, in any event, is what Marcel Detienne attempted to do some fifteen years ago. Juxtaposing history and anthropology, he came, unsurprisingly, to the conclusion that history (as or in its variety of historio- graphy, I’d add) must be seen in connection with the Nation; anthropology (ac- cording to him), on the other hand, from the very beginning wanted to compare. Now, of course there is comparative literature, and one can even come across com- parative history (albeit rather infrequently). As to the present treatise, I have so far endeavored–trying not to give the game away too soon–to compare everything to and with everything. We can premise that the mind harbors “everything”–experi- ences derived from films are among them–and that all these things ineluctably are entangled in enormous bundles of relations with all the other registered things. Prominent among them are visual imprints, made more or less permanent de- pending on their relevance, the easier to be recalled the more intense they were; the cerebrations resulting thereof remain equally “present”. “Present” must not be misunderstood as conscious: these imprints may sink into the unconscious, indeed they often do. The immensely complex web of interactions of all kinds, many of them in their turn unconscious (or not in a position to be readily made conscious), combines Realeindrücke (impressions derived from objective circumstances), inputs from fantasy, and those resulting from processing works of art. On the mind’s screen many of these components...

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