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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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28 Corrective Action


Let us assume that there actually is a deep-seated desire to make one’s life more interesting, more bearable, homing in on just the perfectness you always felt was merited. (You can insert a whole lot of other attributes: more amusing, exciting, breathtaking, thrilling or more pleasant, more beautiful, more calming and satisfying, in short more livable.) This longing is surely there; it is habitually expressed in more idealizing, even grandiose terms: aspiring to high-minded things, anything of that kind. Dworkin’s “good life,” in a more austere, less high-strung sense, refers to something like that. Not the high life then, it’s not about living it up; rather, it means leading a life one doesn’t have to be ashamed of, and which ultimately, as I like to say, can hopefully be a kind of easing death (Sterbehilfe in the proper sense). In religious systems it can probably be seen in notions such as “a pious life,” “chosen,” “born again” and similar fancies.

How do you proceed in order to bring about a life that promises to offer more satisfaction? The moral course, paradoxically, seems much clearer than the one which is (supposedly) chosen as a default strategy. Apart from striving for contentment–nothing improper in that: it is reasonable enough to wish for the comforts of life–there can be superordinated ambitions. The two go well together, they don’t exclude each other. But how to go about it? The first step is to realize that one mustn’t give...

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