A Matter of Life and Death
Director: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
Screenwriter: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
Starring: David Niven, Kim Hunter, Roger Livesey, Robert Coote, Joan Maude, Abraham Sofaer, Raymond Massey, Edwin Max, Marius Goring
An English pilot unexplainingly survives jumping from a plane without parachute, cheats death and falls in love with an American woman (Hunter). When he is approached by a celestial being telling him he was missed because of the fog and due in heaven he refuses claiming things have changed and he deserves to live with the woman he loves.
Powell’s romantic drama leaves it to the viewer to decide whether it is supernatural or not, as it is never reveals whether the celestial trial is all in the head of Peter Carter or whether Dr. Reeves’s (Livesey) diagnose is the correct answer to Peter’s problems. No matter which look on the story you take it is hard not to be captured by the story due to the brilliant characters. Niven (The Pink Panther, 1963) and Hunter’s (A Streetcar Named Desire, 1951) are both kind and endearing characters for whom you wish the very best but the one to steal the show is undoubtedly Livesey (I Know Where I’m Going, 1945) whose intense, dedicated, clever and just doctor is the best part in a really good drama. The trial gives you the impression Powell ad Pressburger are no big fans of America but it never turns mean and ugly, staying goodhearted and kind all the way through. Quiet love drama about second chances with great performances and lovable characters.
Dr. Reeves quotes from Lord Byron’s poem ” She Walks in Beauty” when noting June’s arrival.
The inspiration for Peter’s medical condition came from the semi-autobiographical novel “A Journey Round My Skull” by Hungarian novelist Frigyes Karinthy. More precise medical detail came from Emeric Pressburger’s research in the British Library and consultations with Michael Powell’s brother in law, Dr. Joe Reidy, who was a plastic surgeon in London.
The huge escalator linking this World with the Other, called “Operation Ethel” by the firm of engineers who constructed her under the aegis of the London Passenger Transport Board, took three months to make, and cost three thousand pounds sterling (in 1946). “Ethel” had one hundred six steps, each twenty feet wide, and was driven by a twelve horsepower engine. The full shot was completed by hanging miniatures.
Picture copyrights: Sony Pictures