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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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21 Activating the Mind’s Potential

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I shall now once again change tracks, albeit less so than it might appear: staying on the “location line” (in the civil engineering sense of the term) I’ll simply switch to a parallel track, not taking a bifurcation leading somewhere else entirely. The course of the argumentation should–to further exploit the metaphor–make readers think of a shunting yard.

Asserting that movies stimulate one’s mind, hackneyed as that may seem, hints 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 already mentioned less well-known psychic mechanism of the coexistence of a centripetal and a heteropathic identification.

But what do we actually have in mind when using the word mind? The word has multiple meanings, to an astonishing degree. It is not opportune to go into the intricacies of semantic analysis at this point. Yet it is useful to keep in mind (yes, exactly there) how manifold the ideas conveyed by the word are and how it resonates in finally incalculable ways. In this treatise it is used elementally in the sense of awareness, intellect, cognitive abilities, though not neglecting what’s going on on pre- or unconscious levels. In addition, we should not overlook the lack of translatability of the word mind....

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