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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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41 Plurality and Its Menus


No one constantly wishes to be somebody else. Actually, most people are desirous of many things, not permanently the same ones; and particularly in terms of how’d you like to be (which widely means who’d you like to be) there are permanent changes. They depend on your momentary condition, certain moods, some whim. In regard to movies you will–provided you wish to try out scenarios of behaving like, or “being” like, someone not quite yourself but imaginable enough to be approximate to your mental costume–pick those drafts which correspond with that momentary state of mind and, beyond that, with your general attitude, affections, passions, in short your “nature” (about which, of course, you can really know but little). We have been so far.

But now it is time to put more emphasis on the element of choice. Whatever makes you pick this or that, there is always an abundance of offers you can choose from. There is regardless of the respective historical stage (although there is a permanent increase). In the olden times, living in a large city, you consulted the papers to find out which films were playing and which specific one was to your liking. Later on, in the TV era, the offer (if you didn’t want to go out) was much reduced, in the beginning ridiculously so. That, over time, became better. Then it got better still: you could buy or rent VCR cassettes, you had your “home cinema” although one...

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