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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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12 Wanting to Be: …… (Insert Name)


Classical psychoanalytical theory usually propounds a number of main types of identification: incorporation (which would mean a taking-in, an embracing and including of something external of the appropriating mind), secondly the narcissistic type (where the object is chosen by progressing from identifying with one’s parents to others corresponding with the needs of the person in question), and, consequently, the Oedipal effects (resulting from the parents’ “disposal” and their substitution by more suitable objects). But I should like not to retain the word object. I am sanguine about being able to show in the following discussion that subject is more convenient–regardless of whether it is a fantasized, “ideated,” merely imagined figura or figure, a fiction that has been made to look real on a screen or something even more “real” still.

Whether it is, then, a matter of “primary identification” according to Freud (the quasi-cannibalistic, pre-oedipal inclusion), or the supplanting of an object/subject that had to be abandoned, or the “a-sexual” investment of one’s own personality (all the same palpable and at least vaguely explicable vis-à-vis oneself) in another (better rendered as: an other) because of the intuition that there are affinities or something else altogether: it is less a matter of hysteria than of passion, and certainly a matter of enrichment of the ego of which it could be said that it is looking for company. Never mind that, especially in cases such as these, the ego surely doesn’t “act” consciously, methodically, orderly. Some...

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