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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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20 Dispositive. Apparatus. Instrumentality


I am now going to introduce three terms–termini technici–not, or not quite, used in their accustomed meaning. Rather, they will be used as derivations of more conventional usage. It will prove expedient to understand that both definition and application of these terms, though in part traceable to certain concepts and authors, are here reconfigured according to a new framework that may owe some components to previous usage but partly ascribes unfamiliar meaning to those words and their relations among each other. It is not a matter of entirely new definitions but results from the combination and the interactions of the concepts. At the basis is a simple-seeming question: what–actually and precisely–is it that makes me identify with a role (a cinematic personage), how can the “technical” aspects of this psychological problem best be described?

The process to envisage is the following. You are watching a movie, something exterior to your person, something artificial, then, although that doesn’t impair your sensory perception. Basically it is an object, not part of the natural/cultural universe, but made for your (and many others’) entertainment (the respective realization of which will never quite cease to take leave of the outer regions of your apprehension). You are an observer, you just regard, without any possibility of directly interfering. (Interactive video games seem to derive their attractiveness from the possibility of doing exactly that: co-determining what is going to happen and hence the ultimate outcome. But we have already...

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