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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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49 On Some Specific Motivating Forces of Identification


In parenthesis, I am now thinking along the lines of “electromotive force”–employed as a (techno-)metaphor to refer to something which powerfully draws you in, along, and away. In Axel Corti’s screen adaption of Roth’s Radetzkymarsch Claude Rich plays Dr. Demant. Rich–the other very well-known high caliber stars in this picture are Max von Sydow and Charlotte Rampling–has always been one of my arch-favorites; Je t’aime, je t’aime had an indelible effect on me. In turn, Corti’s interpretation of Roth is highly nuanced, masterful, truly noteworthy: yet, internationally, hardly anyone noticed. Why?

This question logically has to be anteceded by another one: why is Joseph Roth himself insufficiently known? I am saying insufficiently because, up to a point, he seems to be. He is quoted, much less so than Zweig, but he is for all that; the situation is not all that dissimilar to the one of Robert Musil: his novel Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften is famous for its title, it has to be quoted to prove one’s cultivatedness, but who has really read it, especially outside the Germanophone world? And that situation is even worse in regard to Broch–amazing not least because of Christopher Clark’s runaway success, The Sleepwalkers, employing the same title as Broch did for one of his novels–, not to mention Doderer nobody has ever heard of.

I’m not sure that all the people who quote (or rather refer to?) Proust have really read the Recherche...

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