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A Matter of Life and Death

Like other Powell-Pressburger pictures, the striving to appear intellectual is much too apparent. Less desire to exhibit alleged learning, and more humanity would have resulted in a more popular offering.

Like other Powell-Pressburger pictures, the striving to appear intellectual is much too apparent. Less desire to exhibit alleged learning, and more humanity would have resulted in a more popular offering.

For the first 10 minutes, apart from some pretentious poppycock, the picture looks like living up to its boosting. This is real cinema, then action gives way to talk, some of it flat and dreary. Story is set in this world (graced with Technicolor), and the Other World (relegated to dye monochrome) as it exists in the mind of an airman whose imagination has been affected by concussion.

Returning from a bomber expedition, Squadron-Leader David Niven is shot up. Last of the crew, minus a parachute, and believing the end is inevitable, before bailing out talks poetry and love over the radio to Kim Hunter, American WAC on nearby air station. Miraculously Niven falls into the sea, is washed ashore apparently unhurt, and by strange coincidence meets Kim. They fall desperately in love.

Meanwhile in the Other World there’s much bother. Owing to delinquency of Heavenly Conductor Marius Goring, Niven has failed to check in, and Goring is despatched to this world to persuade Niven to take his rightful place and balance the heavenly books.

Obviously experimental in many respects, the designs for the Other World are a matter of taste, but with all their ingenuity Powell, Pressburger, and Alfred Junge could only invent a heaven reminiscent of the Hollywood Bowl and an exclusive celestial night club where hostesses dish out wings to dead pilots.

A Matter of Life and Death

UK

  • Production: Archers. Director Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger; Producer Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger; Screenplay Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger; Camera Jack Cardiff; Editor Reginald Mills; Music Allan Gray; Art Director Alfred Junge
  • Crew: (Color) Extract of a review from 1946. Running time: 104 MIN.
  • With: David Niven Kim Hunter Marius Goring Roger Livesey Raymond Massey Richard Attenborough
  • Music By: