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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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50 Typologies of Identification


More than just implicitly I have, so far, explained identification as the relations of an ego, or parts of one, with others, be they real or fictional. “Tentacles” reaching out from one’s personality (or what is seen as such) grasp for desired components as soon as conformities between that “other” and the ego are noticed. What appears, from an outside perspective, as a sort of model (in the sense of a function) is for the concerned “insider” an identificatory promise attractive enough to generate the wish to find ways and means of a fusion between that ego and the desired elements. The result, however, is a two way street, a take-over from the outside furnishings is no less important than appropriation and projection.

Psychoanalytical theory has long let us assume that interpersonal rapport is based on more than just some innocuous human relationship; any kind of contact between some outlying conglomerate of meaning and the deficiently calculating ego are immeasurably more complex still. The willingness of the ego–to a large part no doubt pre-conscious at best–to transfer a part of oneself into something exterior of the ego is not least a search for plenitude. It should be kept in mind that Freud, in the Neuen Vorlesungen, expressed dissatisfaction with the reflections on identification. Despite respectable research in that direction, progress has been modest.

I suggest that a promising basis for getting ahead can be seen in the factor of commonality. If an...

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