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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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57 Commonalities and Discrepancies


“One World” does not only refer to an airline alliance, it also expresses the alleged (maybe in part factual) homogeneousness of the world. Globalization is the catchword, and the phenomenon it is supposed to describe is pure horror for the ones, still a desirable aim for the others. There is much less “oneness” than most people assume. The patchiness of things of general, “global” relevance is not just illustrated by differences in the bases and practices of law or the multifariousness of sub-types even within one family of political systems. It permeates all planes of existence although mostly nearly imperceptibly so. It is all the more surprising that identification works: I can only hope that this book has proven as much.

The fact that we–not an all-encompassing we but still more than a rhetorical figure–quite easily identify with a cinematic hero/heroine by and large regardless of our country and culture of origin misleads us with regard to the degree and intensity of that identification. It works, functions, because of two main factors: an increasing refinement of mass market movies and a steep learning curve of the audience. Some additional remarks are in place. The often denigrated Hollywood machine churns out movies people want to see. This appetite has been honed which does not mean that the attraction these movies exert is inauthentic, just inculcated, in a way forced upon the audiences. It also has been said often before that Hollywood understands well how to...

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