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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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54 “Evacuation” and Narcissism

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Ostensibly, evacuation is not a psychoanalytical term. Narcissism, on the other hand, is one of the best known ones, though arguably also one of the most misunderstood. Consider the origin of the expression and try to make sense of it in a somewhat frivolous way: a young guy coming across some mirror and becoming quite libidinous about the supposed picture, not realizing at first that it is he himself whom he perceives. (We’ll pass over the question whether the situation would be exactly the same with a female.) The improbability is so striking that even for a naive person it must be clear that it is a matter of a metaphor. Narcissus, according to the Greek mythology couldn’t let go of his adored image the true nature of which he wasn’t able to comprehend. So he perishes. (Toppling over and drowning in the pond in one version.) Well, of course, analysis has other things in mind. Let us, for now, just say that we’re going to dissert about a fixation with oneself, the ego, then (and by no means only in terms of auto-eroticism).

First, however, evacuation. What I have decidedly less in mind is defecation, the excretion of feces; the medical meaning of “evacuating” harmful substances (germs, even incorrectly administered medicine) is more helpful as is, of course, the more general meaning of clearing, removing, relinquishing, evacuating a building, etc. I am aiming at still another, imaginable but not yet familiar nuance or shift of...

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