A Matter Of Life and Death

Watch A Matter Of Life and Death

  • PG
  • 1947
  • 1 hr 44 min
  • 8.0  (24,450)

A Matter of Life and Death is a romantic fantasy film from 1946 directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. The film features David Niven, Kim Hunter, Roger Livesey, Raymond Massey, and Robert Coote in the lead roles. The movie tells the story of a British air force pilot who cheats death and falls in love with an American radio operator.

The film begins with Squadron Leader Peter Carter (David Niven) piloting a damaged Lancaster bomber over the English Channel during World War II. As his plane crashes into the sea, he makes contact with June (Kim Hunter), an American WAC radio operator stationed in England. Their conversation begins a romantic bond between the two of them.

However, Peter didn't actually die in the crash – there was a mix-up in Heaven. An angel tells him he was meant to die in the crash, but because of the mix-up, Peter's allowed to stay alive. When he returns to Earth, he doesn't seem to be affected by the near-death experience. He later meets June in person, and they fall in love.

But the spiritual world is not done with Peter. Convinced that he should have died in the crash, an emissary from Heaven comes to Earth to correct the situation. Peter must argue that his continued existence will be beneficial to humanity. To complicate matters further, he suffers from headaches and hallucinations, and it's not clear if he's going mad or if something more sinister is happening.

The film's fantastical plot is infused with plenty of humor and irony, and is notable for its imaginative portrayal of the afterlife. The climactic courtroom scene features Peter and his lawyer defending his right to life against an array of heavenly bureaucrats. This surreal sequence includes the judge's dispassionate assessment of Peter's arguments, and whimsical visual touches like angels flying through the air on bicycles and other absurd modes of transport.

Powell and Pressburger's vision of Heaven is also inventive, featuring escalators and a well-appointed waiting room with a distinctly British atmosphere. The presence of humorous touches doesn't detract from the movie's romantic and philosophical dimensions, as Peter and June try to convince each other of the depth of their love.

The movie boasts some impressive special effects and a dreamy, almost surreal quality to the visuals. The filmmakers make use of Technicolor to create vivid contrasts between the earthly and the spiritual realms. One of the most memorable sequences occurs during a dance a few hours before the trial, in which Peter has a vivid, colorful dream that climaxes with a spiral staircase ascending to a jazz band in Heaven.

The film's themes of love conquering death and the value of individual lives are universal and have continued to resonate with viewers for generations. It's a powerful and moving tale, blending romance, drama, and fantasy elements into a unique whole. The movie earned much praise from critics for its unconventional storytelling and visual style.

In conclusion, A Matter of Life and Death is an engaging and unique film that explores the themes of love, death, and the human condition in an imaginative and intelligent way. The performances are outstanding, and the visuals are stunning, making it a memorable viewing experience. It's a must-see for fans of romance, drama, or fantasy films, and a classic example of the stellar work that Powell and Pressburger produced during their collaboration.

A Matter Of Life and Death
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  • Release Date
  • MPAA Rating
  • Runtime
    1 hr 44 min
  • IMDB Rating
    8.0  (24,450)