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This is a page on metaphysical identity, an identity type that goes beyond the body.

Did you ever look at a screen and felt like you were unable to look away?
Or have you ever seen somebody or something on TV that you felt attracted/connected to?
You probably experienced metaphysical identification.


It is known that films can cause strong visceral and emotional reactions in people. At the world premiere of the horror film “ Bite” at the Fantasia International Film Fest in 2015 people were so scared that an ambulance had to be called. Bite’s Facebook page posted a picture of the scene outside the screening with a dispatch from an attendee saying: ‘ "I leave the BITE premiere for all of ten minutes and the following text lights up my phone: 2 people,fainted. One girl is puking and another hit his head on stairs. Truth."

Occurrences like this are nothing new. At one of the first screenings of ‘The Exorcist’ in 1973 people were reported fainting and vomiting and it is well documented that many end in tears during the watching of ‘The Titanic’. Identification plays an important role in our emotional responses to films, the depicted dimension and their characters. These characters play an essential, if not most important, role in motion pictures. The emotional power of cinema is central to its appeal and value as an art form, and the question arises of how it is achieved. From early on when I started watching movies, watching them functioned as some sort of escape. I thought of the screen itself as something that’s simply existed and was more interested in movies, especially the characters than the screen it was shown upon. At first during the writing of this thesis I deliberately tried to keep the focus of the thesis on the subject of cinema. Then I was still thinking about cinema in a predetermined manner, and this did not sustain, breaking free from that way of thinking was bound to happen. You can see this shift happening from subchapter 1.3 to 1.4 and on. I decided to keep the earlier subchapters because I think they too are important; without those chapters I wouldn’t be able to have written the rest, and I think they function as a bridge to chapter 1.5, to a concept that I chose to call ‘metaphysical identification’. By writing this chapter I got captivated by the idea of seeing a screen as something that is alive, realizing that screens just like people are build out of the same material, matter. If we as people identify with fictional characters on a screen, I’d like to believe that that same identification goes beyond the portrayed character, and that it would stretch beyond the infinite surface of things. While were I would have looked at a television screen before without any thoughts about the screen itself (meaning its physical substance), I now had to think about what a screen was made of and how it could influence human identification. A screen, a manmade machine, formed from ‘natural’ materials, might not differ so much from a person. Nowadays screens are build out of glass or plastic and rare minerals. Knowing that and actually seeing the screen as something that is ‘natural’, the idea of identifying with it on all kinds of levels was for me a truly interesting but still vague idea. I saw the image that was shown on the screen, as a paradox of what was actually happening around us. Seeing a tree, the ocean, or high mountain cliffs on a television screen and seeing that same tree in real life makes for the brain no difference as far as ‘identification’ goes. We identify with that object the same way. I think that identification occurs there as well, it’s not a question of real or not. I think this confronts us with our own thinglyness. I have always viewed my body as a literal product of my environment, something that is ‘alive’ but still considering it a thing just like everything around us. The subject of identification through film became relevant to me when I asked myself what attracts me the most in films. It then became apparent that nothing else but the characters held the biggest appeal for me. On screen a person can become anything; transform into everything. Looking at it that way watching a film might do more than entertain us, it is able to fulfill an unconscious wish we arguably all share; a desire for completeness. A fictional character cannot exist and interact in the bodily flesh; he can only be broadcasted,—monologues being the “preferred” form of communication. This is how the character lives his life, on an endless series of videotapes, film rolls or disks and through countless of viewers. On the big screen spaces change, bodies hollow out, boundaries fade. A world is created, a bugged or upgraded replica of that that was already there. A character is shown; the magnetism of a person being able to be several selves, to be several possible bodies and identities. Film is in a pursuit of the truth - personal or universal. It travels through the eye, a mind, a lens and then another eye. Fictional characters live on in us, and as long as we don’t forget them, they will never die. We remember them as real human beings, we look up to them, and we take inspiration from them and admire them. Similar to when we encounter people in our physical daily lives. They are inhabited inside of our imagination, within the same realm as memories, fantasies and dreams. How do these characters get here, in this realm of personal thoughts? How do we identify with them? Could identification go beyond the bodies of characters and bleed into different worlds? Could we not only identify with the person but also the entire world it is in?


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