Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Poetry and Spirituality in NUMB3RS:
"The Death-Bed" and Zen-Boy Fleinhardt

I really enjoy a well-placed bit of verse in a film or in a television show. I remember the thrill of hearing "And Death Shall Have No Dominion" by Dylan Thomas in BEAUTY AND THE BEAST many years ago. And a Rilke piece--"Archaic Torso of Apollo" --in Woody Allen's ANOTHER WOMAN, and another of Rilke's in ONLY YOU ("You Who Never Arrived") Then there's the goreousness of Neruda's verse ( "La Muerta" ) in TRULY, MADLY, DEEPLY (which made me buy the VHS when it went on sale a couple decades ago), and in IL POSTINO.

Well, those are some examples.

Recently, in the episode (a kicking good episode) called "The Janus List", NUMB3RS ended with Judd Hirsch's character, sitting in the company of his two sons, the brilliant mathematician and the effective FBI agent, reciting lines from "The Death-Bed" by Siegfried Sassoon. I couldn't recall the poem's title, but it was evident that it was a WWI era poem, verses of war.

They're lovely. Here they are:

Light many lamps and gather round his bed.
Lend him your eyes, warm blood, and will to live.
Speak to him; rouse him; you may save him yet.

But death replied: 'I choose him.' So he went,
And there was silence in the summer night;
Silence and safety; and the veils of sleep.
Then, far away, the thudding of the guns.

Read the whole poem.

And if that episode repeats, catch it. It's a very, very good one, rated 9.5 out of 10 at TV.Com.

And my fave character on the show is the physicist, Larry Fleinhardt, who went off to join a trappist monastery before "re-entry" into society after his space trip. His zennish advice and quirky personality--I adore eccentrics!--are delightful to behold.

Why is it that Peter MacNicol is such as scene-stealer for me? He stole CHICAGO HOPE (as "The Eel") right out from under the intense and very sexy Mandy Patinkin, and he steals the scenes in NUMB3RS from anyone with whom he shares dialogue. Love dat man. Plus the spiritual discussion is interesting, given how scientific and pragmatic Charlie and Don are, respectively. He's an excellent part of the show, and I'm glad he's back.


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