Set in a gorgeously photographed Technicolor England and a monochrome heaven, A Matter of Life and Death took the imaginative daring of jointly credited writer-producer-directors Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger to new heights.
David Niven plays a British airman who survives a plane crash and falls in love with an American radio operator (Kim Hunter), only to be summoned to the afterlife by a heavenly ‘Conductor’ (Marius Goring). But is heaven just a hallucination brought on by brain injury?
Powell and Pressburger layer breathtaking visual tricks on top of this whimsical premise, such as a celebrated point-of-view shot in which our hero’s eyelid closes over the camera lens. The film also works as a sly satire on Anglo-American relations at the end of WWII.
“There are more stunning ideas in this one film, concerning a mistake made in heaven about a WWII pilot who should be dead but isn’t, than the whole of British cinema can usually muster in a decade.” Nick James
“A most peculiar and potent cocktail of romance, theology, global bridge-building and national tub-thumping, this thoughtful drama about one pilot’s deferred mortality remains, if nothing else, a definitive monument to the power of Technicolor. The vivid imagery and the cineliterate style(s) deployed by a creative team at the top of their game express the film’s intricate worldview. It searingly conveys a world grappling with uncharted new places, trying to pick up the pieces after unimaginable calamity.” James Healy