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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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10 Introductory Remarks on the Mind’s “Chambers”


Admitting that it sounds hackneyed to say movies stimulate one’s mind, this expression hints, however, at processes much more complex than first suspected, processes of indeed staggering qualities. As the central thesis of the present treatise is based on the premise that the spectator invests himself or herself in the film and is at the same time pervaded by it, we have to allow for the admission of one of the less well-known psychic mechanisms: the coexistence of a double (inverse) dynamic of identification. Attention though: they are not symmetrical, their component parts being not equivalent. While we allow movies a sort of “conquest,” giving in to them so to speak, motivated by perceived affinity and resulting in empathy, there is also a reaching-out, an investing oneself actively. It would be erroneous to consider the first type as invasive or aggressive and the second as a simple desire-fed frenzy. It is also highly probable that neither the one nor the other ever appear in nuce.

It is tempting to deduce from that a general inclination to schizoid dispositions (either letting one be inundated by or taking possession of what is finally but an offer). The “I” tends to spread out. The mind attempts to enrich itself, and the least one can say is that it does so to satisfy a voracious appetite. Stimuli, all kinds of apperceptions, so-called experiences, and eventually a self-supporting run of phantasms–more or less conscious constructs, in part auto-generative, it seems,...

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