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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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16 The Yearning for a Happy End


Hollywood movies–and indeed all popular or main stream movies (or however else they might be referred to)–are routinely held in at least some contempt because of their frequent happy ends. (Not that they always have one, in the first place.) As we’ll all find a terrible end, however, there is nothing much astonishing in movies pursuing an inverse tactic, the less so as they are, that way, catering to the general inclination of the moviegoers and, truth be told, the needs of the audience–and humans in general. We all try to put thoughts about death out of our mind, even the most sophisticated among us. As to the word need, it is not used in a strictly psychoanalytical sense; it should be thought of as a rather neutral term in the sense of request or requirement. In the present specific context we are well advised to avoid “desire” in order to facilitate an argumentation which will attempt to steer away from an immediate convergence of such needs and their sexual component. No reason, moreover, to catapult ourselves into the disputed zones of the possibly infantile character of desires.

“Need” (as an expediency), at first, refers to distraction and relaxation: in a quite unassuming way these terms put you on the right track to comprehend the counter-strategy a little light-mindedness is right in looking for. Secondly, the terrible end just invoked should not be misunderstood as death “as such.” Death is nothing to be...

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