Show Less
Restricted access

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.
Show Summary Details
Restricted access

4 Wanting to Be Another


Obviously, the verb identify can be transitive as well as intransitive. In proposing a largely (but by no means exclusively) psychoanalysis-oriented reading in this book, a specific choice is also made in regard to the question of how movies work. For many people it is easy to identify actors and actresses, at least well-known ones. Few people only, conversely, are ready to admit that, as a rule, they identify themselves with the screen characters. You could also say, few are aware of it; some are even taken aback when you suggest such a thing. The “as a rule” just employed is by no means just a verbal conventionalism: it can probably not be asserted that each and every person watching a movie identifies him- or herself with one or the other of the characters. There are hardly any respective data. It is difficult to imagine how such evidence could possibly be established–which would have to be reliable, verifiable, empirically sound.

My approach will, at first, be rather pragmatic. Let us just assume–as a working hypothesis–that identification of that type does take place. In the course of the following argumentation it will become increasingly clear why this assumption is borne out by, if not strictly empirical, circuitous corroboration. But it is surely necessary that everybody is willing to concede, at least on a provisionary basis, that one can, and does, indeed identify with fictitious persons/characters/roles. This is easier to do once one realizes that...

You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.

This site requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals.

Do you have any questions? Contact us.

Or login to access all content.