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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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1 On Both Sides of the Looking-Glass


Facing the screen, silver or lcd or whatever, watching a movie, a startling question is imminent. What I am seeing, is it nothing but an impersonal unfolding of a visually told story, distracting, amusing, thrilling–or is there more to it? Shut off the screen, and you’ll probably perceive a vague likeness of yourself: your mirror image. Turn it on again and the looking-glass becomes the aperture to a fictitious universe once more.

Likeness of the beholder versus the adventure provided by a movie. But is the membrane (or diaphragm) really just a sort of revolving door? A door leading either to a redundant (pseudo) mirror image or to the cinematographic quest for pleasure and excitement? The screen is, of course, not intended to serve as a (disfiguring and quite inefficient) mirror; it is nearly permanently active, customarily showing the trivia of one of the ruling media: ads, so-called news, supposedly entertaining shows.

The receiver, then, supplying the screen itself with all that trash is hardly ever turned off. One must suppose, movies aren’t all that frequently shown on those screens. Movies seem to become somewhat outdated. Up to date, maybe even more so than the telly of old, are the omnipresent i-phones and other hand-held devices. Historically, the screen, the silver screen, was intended mainly to allow the projection of films. The cinema, significantly not seldom an adapted theatre, was neither the improbable (and involuntary) looking-glass I have just evoked, nor was it...

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