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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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24 The Confines of Reality, Storytelling, and the Force Majeur of Temporality


Living kills. If life came in the form of a pack of cigarettes, that would nicely do for a fitting label. At any rate it would be more accurate than the inane actual one: you die whether you smoke or not (an old Viennese proverb had it right: you drink, you die; you don’t drink, you die too; so drink). What’s your poison? Never mind, or not all that much, whatever you do or don’t do, you die. It’s just a matter of time, a matter of, at best, achieving a maximum length of life. But there’s no escaping the timeline.

Now, as Samuel Scheffler and others have argued we still think about an afterlife, by no means only about paradise/hell as Christians and other religiously biased do, but also in terms of future humans. But the word think is somewhat misplaced in this context. It is in fact some susceptibility which hardly ever takes on a concrete gestalt. Particularly those without egregious philosophical ambitions, however, are inexorably remanded to that timeline, the physical boundaries of a linear existence from a beginning to an end. It can be referred to as biography. Structurally identical, a story has a beginning and an end, too. Both have to be seen as finite. That couldn’t be said of reality–regardless of whether you try to circumnavigate the snags the use of this word inevitably brings up: of course you can rather refer to “the real” (as Lacan did) and...

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