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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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32 There Are Alternatives


A prefabricated conversational cliché has it that “another world is possible.” Much loved by anti-globalists, anti-freetraders, anti-global-warming people, it is a slogan in regard to which one may well ask whether those who proclaim it and vociferate about it (at demonstrations, for example, possibly with the fist raised) effectively realize how true it is. Because though it is meant that different courses of action and different options are at least hypothetically feasible (a world without trade and migration, say, the vital products distributed by central statist or even local agencies), there already are alternative (or “parallel”) worlds. They are, however, fictional and most will always remain exactly that. Still, they tell us quite a lot about the theoretical possibilities of a supplantation of what actually exists. They are didactic dramas.

By saying so we are not even talking about science fiction (which is by no means only about “the future:” favorite topics are alternate history and parallel universes resulting in dissertations about different paths chosen). Each and every novel and all films are in a certain sense alternative histories: by telling fictitious stories about people who do not really exist, they insinuate an alternative reality. Roger Thornhill did not actually exist although he has much of the trimmings of a veracious character (albeit an idealized one). Here, then, is the reason why we are hardly ever aware of how fictional such inventions are: arguably, it wouldn’t, pertaining to world history, have made all that much difference...

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