Second chance

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 March, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 29 March, 2000, 12:00am

Anear-death experience, or NDE, is apparently one of the most powerful experiences a person can have. As many as one third of people who return from the brink of death recall that something happened, such as weird feelings of being out of the physical body, moving through a darkness or tunnel, encountering sthe presences of deceased loved ones and other entities, and an indescribable light or menacing darkness.

Not surprisingly, NDE has provoked intense fascination especially in its possible evidence of an after-life. Supernatural Science (Pearl, 10.45pm) is not the first programme to tackle the topic in recent weeks. This episode, Between Life And Death, includes research that viewers might have seen: showing pilots who experience a similar sensation when exposed to high gravitational forces. And like the final episode of The Human Body, it exposes the phenomenon to the cold light of science.

The biology of how the brain winds down with the on-set of death might be able to explain much of the process, but not all. According to the International Association for Near Death Studies, many people say they glimpsed the pattern and meaning of life and the universe, or gained information beyond ordinary human capacities.

One of the extraordinary aspects of NDE is that the underlying pattern seems unaffected by a person's culture or religion, although the way in which the experience is described varies according to the person's background. Nor, thankfully, is there any evidence that the type of experience is related to whether or not the person is religious.

Whatever the near-death experience is, it is neither recent nor localised. Something happens, and it changes those who come back to enjoy a second chance at life.

Cable's HBO continues to frustrate with its offering of movies. There are obviously not enough quality modern films to fill its schedule, even in prime-time. The made-for-television Blade Squad (HBO, 9pm) has little to recommend it, pitting a rag bag gang of roller-blading, jet-propelled cops against a vengeful criminal who plots to destroy them. It is set, as so many of these mean action films are, in the not-too-distant dark future.

It also features a collection of little-known B-list actors, including Yancey Arias, Kirk Baltz and Mushond Lee.

TNT, which will be renamed Turner Classic Movies, or TCM, on Sunday, offers more rewarding entertainment. Tonight, Jane Wyman can be seen in her only Oscar-winning role in the 1948 movie Johnny Belinda (TNT, 9pm).

She plays a deaf-mute from a provincial fishing town who falls in love with the doctor who dares to teach her sign language. When she bears a child everyone suspects her teacher rather than the violent lout who raped her.

At the time, more than half a century before American Beauty, this powerful film was seen to be dangerously different, and to herald in a new era of permissiveness.