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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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43 Perspectives, Prises de Vue, Position, Perception


In the present book the problem of perception has been treated from different angles several times already. I now propose still another take, homing in on the two cardinal positions: of the person “doing” the identifying and the personage identified with. First, “to do” here, although it points to action, must not be seen as purely or even primarily conscious or planned. Every human constantly does things without giving them much thought, often without realizing what she or he is actually “doing.” Second, it is quite underestimated that, in being spectators, we are forced into a certain position by way of general “positioning” of the hero/heroine, the personage we usually identify with (it can also happen that we identify with a second premier which complicates things). Normally, we are “forced” to take up the position and perspective of the lead actor/actress. By prise de vue (which also calls up the word viewpoint) I refer to the camera and its angle, the panorama it provides, depth of focus, etc. Routine comprehension puts the main actant (in the semiotic sense) on a centralizing point of subjective examination: everything is “seen through the eyes of the hero or heroine.” All those even a little literate in cinema history will, furthermore, immediately think back to Dark Passage where the first third is shot from the point of view of “Vincent Parry” (played by Bogart).

Delmer Daves’s movie is–because of this consistent use of the perspective of the subjective camera...

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