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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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25 Attempting to Change Minds

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Around 1970–dare I say when some people still hoped for a lot, albeit often for wrong reasons, eyeing untenable aims–there was a wave of “Latin” movies criticizing, decrying, passionately accusing the established order. These movies are less well remembered than one would wish. I’ll provide some examples and discuss them, bearing in mind that they’d merit a whole lot more of attention. The fact that they didn’t bring about much, if any, change does not prove their intrinsic inefficiency but bears witness to the profound perpetuity of power structures: the ineffectiveness of attempts to reform (if not to revolutionize) must be explained by the extreme cunning of the “elites” in place.

The movies I’m going to discuss have one major point in common. They are anti-elite–if one is ready to comprehend “elites” as self-appointed substantial groups of people asserting that their members are something better than hoi polloi: creditable, deserving, possessing impeccable taste; they see themselves as “meritorious.” According to the movies here brought up, such “elites” do not deserve respect, let alone leading positions. This is a position one can without difficulty identify with, the more so as the term elite appears as a malapropism: merely claimed meritoriousness, not at all proved, alas, not seldom the exact opposite, detrimentalness then, is not something easy to accept. Neither is it easy to explain. Rendered in French, we could speak of la trahison des élites, a phrase that expresses well what these movies have...

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