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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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23 Faking Reality


Reality, it is easy to claim, is what is seen as reality. The fact that there seems to be broad agreement about it can equally easily be explained by people’s training, mainly at school and in their wider (socio-cultural) determinants and narrower (extended family) milieu. It is a matter of teaching: to drum conformity into the heads of all: an observance that leads to (admittedly indispensable) uniform understanding. Primary socialization, comprehended as something very much like domestication, means breaking in the “newly enrolled.” They are taught how to behave, what to see and in which way to see, how to evaluate, incorporate and classify all kinds of apperception. In that sense (and in that sense only) there is no individual perception but just binding social vision.

Attention though. It cannot be deduced from that that there is no reality. It may be difficult (it indeed is) to ascertain it in an indubitable, objective way, but it’s there, it doesn’t make sense to withhold assent, or only insofar as the “agreements in principle” are exactly a result of the overall consent. But it does make sense to question its alleged universal binding power: the persuasion of these “agreements” is manifestly less commanding than many assume. It suffices in this context to point at the wildly discordant Weltbilder, mostly but not exclusively in terms of religion. We would live much more pleasant lives if the impressions individuals and entire cultures have wouldn’t diverge so much. But again: reality...

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