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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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9 “It’s All in Your Head”


But is it really? Without stimulus, there is nothing. Research into the functioning of the brain suggests that its machinery depends, a logical enough assumption, on sensory inputs that are processed in ways pretty much understandable by now. This obviously quite complex stuff is not our concern here. There are, rather, two other aspects that need to be pondered in the present context. One, can the mind effectively be considered to be just the brain; two, are the transmissions stimuli/mind sufficiently clear?

As to the first question, let us provisionally assume that–circumlocutionarily expressed with a metaphor fitting for our times–the brain is hardware, thinking is software. Equipped with a basis, apparatus, a kind of “frame” (think of main frame), an amazing number of operations can be carried out. None of the latter (let’s say, mind games) would be possible without the former. Still, the interplay between sensory perception, apperception, reflection and reasoning are maybe less clearly explicable, as yet less well understood, than is usually assumed. But again: this is just an approximate working hypothesis; later on it will be easier to become a little more definitive.

The second question appears to be easier to approach. Especially in the case of the cinema, there can be no doubt that multimedially composed “messages” are consumed by an audience which (a) has chosen the respective product and (b) is willing to let itself be guided by the offer. This offer–this product or construct,...

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