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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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46 A Mind Bridge

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In a remarkable novel, Mindbridge (first published in 1973), Joe Haldeman pro- poses a thing (a creature or contraption), discovered during a routine expedition to a soon to be colonized planet, that enables humans to enter into telepathic contact. The descriptions concerning the ensuing sensations particularly during sexual in- tercourse are very illuminating. Imagine to be perceptive–able to sense in an abso- lutely authentic way–to feminine and masculine excitation in parallel: not just by projection and empathy but by actually feeling, and being aware, of the act of phys- ical love as a man and a woman in parallel, simultaneously, with all the intensity usually reserved for one’s own sex vis-à-vis the other. No attempted “intuition”–the German Einfühlung expresses it better–could come close; in Haldeman’s case it’s a matter of complete identity, no necessity of intuiting something. I suggest that film, at its most intimate, under the most favorable circumstances, can provide a tinge of approximation. The enigma of an erotic component in the desire to be/become another here acquires at least a shadow of comprehensibility. No one wants to exist in total isolation; and while normal emotive contact with other real persons is satisfying and, to a degree, sufficient, it certainly seems that there always is some sort of transcendental yearning. Such vague needs are as a rule taken care of by religious rituals. Some of them have been covered by (mainly novelistic) literature and, in more emotional form, by sculpture and painting...

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