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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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58 And My Personal Movie?


Identifications mostly remain at least in part unconscious. Maybe that’s true chiefly for the truly important ones. At the very end of this book I should all the same like to provide a scoop of where my personal preferences might be situated. Some of my favorites haven’t been mentioned at all; after all, much remained out of consideration (even pet things can escape your momentary attention), and, in the final analysis, an end is an end. Or should be: I’m not professor Tripp who isn’t able to finish his book.

So Tripp (Michael Douglas in Wonder Boys) provides me with a first clue: I suppose some readers would assume that it goes by itself for a professor to identify with professors. Would I go after college professor movies? I’ve already mentioned Educating Rita. Animal House with Donald Sutherland is a fantastic runner-up, particularly since I adore Sutherland. But I have never been a heavy drinker (the exponent in Educating Rita), neither have I been indifferent to my job (Sutherland’s role) although I didn’t care for university bureaucracy in the least. Why are most (if not all) American or British college profs bored, out of their depth, depressed, alcoholics, plus sporting all kinds of other defects? Tripp’s “writer’s diarrhea” is, by the way, quite original.

The prototype of the drunkard-prof-movie arguably is Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Thankfully, I’ve never personally experienced something like it; neither does Accident by Joseph Losey correspond all that much...

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