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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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6 Stunt Doubles, Stand-Ins, Spectators. And the Doctors


Postulating that spectators somehow get “into” movies implies the screen’s “permeability.” That has already been brought up. To be sure, this finding involves a metaphor, a double one, come to that. Obviously, neither is the screen permeable nor can you get physically into a film. It is a mind game. To a degree consciously, a movie’s audience lets itself go: the people watching are willing to regard in a way which, in certain ways, includes them in the fictional product. That’s what happens to Mia Farrow in Purple Rose, as we have seen already. (It should be clear by now that I regularly but not systematically use the actors’ or actresses’ names for the personages they play or “incarnate.” This is not slipshod but, as will become clear, part of an argumentative strategy.) The stupendous mobilization of emotions set free by watching a movie is to a large part only explicable by this process of, one way or another, entering the movie observed through the “looking-glass.” The complexity of this mystery will take quite a while longer to fully comprehend.

At any rate, once the spectators have achieved to get to the other side–a little as Groucho does when he finally steps into the picture provided by the supposed mirror–they immediately find themselves in company. Perhaps it will take them only a few seconds to figure out that they may still not be in the presence of the actual actors/actresses but just some stand-ins....

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