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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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5 Being John Malkovich. Or Michael Douglas. Or Richard Gere. Or Bill Pullman. Or Someone Younger, Maybe Someone of the Other Sex/Gender


There are serious drawbacks to this concrete offer to be, at least temporarily, another. According to the movie at present referred to (Being John Malkovich) you can only be John Malkovich; and worse, the show is rather restricted to New Jersey. It has, not least because of very frequent chaffing in the movies, become proverbial that Jersey is not the place where you’d want to be. Nothing against Malkovich–but would you be content to be just him, for a change, for a brief span of time? It all depends, of course. The “Garden State” does, I suppose, sport some nice corners (where some of the very rich live), and I, for one, find Malkovich’s role in RED (2010) quite attractive, it must be nice to be armed to the teeth and know how to handle them, the arms. My personal routes into that film, however, would rather be chosen along the traces of Morgan Freeman and Helen Mirren. (Yes, there is gender-transcending identification. I’ll try to present some proof later on.) Still, Malkovich, armed to the nines, so to speak, would be thrown in as a bonus. It’s a nice thought to be still perfectly able to be a fighter despite being old.

The portal in the Malkovich movie is perfectly illustrative, if in a metaphorical, ironic, amusing way. (One of the attempts of this study, evidently, is to be ironic.) John Cusack, remember, by chance discovers that portal, crosses it, finding himself in the...

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