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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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References and Notes


This is a book about films, not about books. There are lots of books about the cinema and specific movies, biographies about stars and cinéastes, genres and all kinds of topics and tendencies and theories. Some of them are good, a few even extraordinary; too many of them are run-of-the-mill occasional works about some current star or some luminary (more often than not a director) or just a collection of reviews.

The intention here is to analyze pictures, not books about pictures. Consequently, little reference will be made to the astounding multitude of books “on” film. There are, at any rate, hardly any texts about the problems investigated here (a plausible exception being Colin McGinn’s The Power of Movies, cf. notes to chapter 47). It is necessary to look elsewhere for elucidation; and it is better anyway to look primarily, indeed nearly exclusively, at the movies themselves. That is exactly what I did here.

The movies, then, will be quoted in a very simple way; of course, the quotations will not be repeated every time a specific movie is mentioned. (It is pleasingly easy to obtain all the desired information on particular films by consulting IMDb, International Movie Database, or Wikipedia.) I shall hence just indicate the director, the movie’s original title, the year of production, the main actors and actresses. And, incidentally, I do not distinguish between different categories of films (e.g., “TV-movie”): this is quite outdated and was unjust to begin...

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