In and Out of Movies: Incarnation and Personal Identity
Fiction, particularly movies, enjoys the license to abandon philosophical rigor and play free and loose with issues somewhat related to the traditional personal identity concerns of philosophers. Double-named characters appear frequently in movies raising issues of double-identity to deepen the intrigue of their narratives. This paper explores the 1947 American film noir Out of the Past, which depicts the double identity and subsequent incarnation/embodiment of its protagonist by his abandoned past as a private detective who has crossed his gangster employers. In addition, the essay reaches “outside” the film to discuss the use of incarnation in the application of such notions as star or role, by taking as an example, its star Robert Mitchum, which leads us to how forces largely independent of their wills, incarnate certain actors, setting them up outside their films for multiple identities.