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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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39 Getaways and Great Escapes


To get along with one’s life–monotonously repeated: leading to death anyway, an obsessive repetition necessitated because of the repudiation of that very fact, considered to be, as they say, natural, normal, banal–, to keep oneself going, then, it is arguably necessary to revert to tricks, to all kinds of contrivances and stratagems. It is a dead give-away (yes, dead) to pretend that thinking about death and dying–as life’s upshot–is “banal.” Finally, everything from religious beliefs to creativity is a counter-strategy to death. I now propose that one of these counter-strategies, maybe the ultimate one, can be seen in attempts to get out of “the prison of the dying.”

To some it sounds close to kitschy to say something like this (prison of the dying). Why? There is no denying the fact that we are all doing exactly that. Is this the reason why many find it too trivial, too immaterial to assert that this is the case (nobody seems to be eager of being reminded of it)? Faced with that, the best analysis and therapy turns out to be ultimately futile: “in the long run” at least we are all dead anyway, to make use of the flogged to death phrase, or part of it, ascribed to Keynes. Could be a matter of a rather short run, too? Just think of all the noir movies. You are kept in lifelong prison and then get executed. I think it’s significant in the extreme that...

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