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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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48 Mobilizers, Enablers, Utensils and Other Wherewithals

Extract



Time and again, in movies dear to me, I am struck by the miniscule nature of some components of the story that enrail me. This rail metaphor serves well to illustrate what I mean when talking about something that puts us on track. Let’s consider a few examples. (And I have to add a word of warning. Again, I’ll hardly be referring to art films, and for two reasons. The personal one is that I love mainstream movies whereas the art house often leaves me indifferent. Secondly and more importantly, mainstream movies indisputably have true social relevance. It’s not only that lots of people go to see them, they frequently package important messages in a way and by using methods that are accessible, hence not too difficult to decode, and amusingly/thrillingly presented so that boredom cannot undermine that process of getting into the film I am talking about.)

Highly subjectively I first point to a couple of examples already examined in previous publications (and in part also in the present book). Let’s briefly revisit The Next Three Days by Paul Haggis and the getaway sequence with Russell Crowe and Elizabeth Banks taking place in the tram (“LRT”) network of Pittsburgh. I have mentioned how conscientiously and correct the way of how to activate emergency braking and overriding the door closing mechanism in the cars is shown. This reinforces, I’ve affirmed, my insertion into the movie (already emotionally involved, every correct detail contributes to positive involvement); identification...

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