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A Matter of Life and Death (1946)

PG | | Comedy, Drama, Fantasy | March 1947 (USA)
A British wartime aviator who cheats death must argue for his life before a celestial court.
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1 win & 2 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
David Niven ... Peter Carter
Kim Hunter ... June
Robert Coote ... Bob Trubshaw
Kathleen Byron ... An Angel
Richard Attenborough ... An English Pilot
Bonar Colleano ... An American Pilot (as Bonor Colleano)
Joan Maude Joan Maude ... Chief Recorder
Marius Goring ... Conductor 71
Roger Livesey ... Dr. Frank Reeves
Robert Atkins Robert Atkins ... The Vicar
Bob Roberts Bob Roberts ... Dr. Gaertler
Edwin Max ... Dr. McEwen
Betty Potter Betty Potter ... Mrs. Tucker
Abraham Sofaer ... The Judge
Raymond Massey ... Abraham Farlan
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Storyline

Returning to England from a bombing run in May 1945, pilot Peter Carter's plane is damaged and his parachute ripped to shreds. He has his crew bail out safely, but figures it is curtains for himself. He gets on the radio, and talks to June, a young American woman working for the U.S. Army Air Forces, and they are quite moved by each other's voices. Then he jumps, preferring this to burning up with his plane. He wakes up in the surf. It was his time to die, but there was a mix-up in heaven. They couldn't find him in all that fog. By the time his "Conductor" catches up with him twenty hours later, Peter and June have met and fallen in love. This changes everything, and since it happened through no fault of his own, Peter figures that heaven owes him a second chance. Heaven agrees to a trial to decide his fate. Written by John Oswalt <jao@jao.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

The Greatest Adventure a Man Ever Lived! See more »


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG for thematic elements | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

UK

Language:

English | French | Russian

Release Date:

March 1947 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

A Matter of Life and Death See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

GBP320,000 (estimated)

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$124,241
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

The Archers See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Recording)

Color:

Black and White (Dye - Monochrome) (heaven scenes)| Color (Technicolor) (Earth scenes)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The first scene shot was David Niven washing up on the beach. Originally planned to fade in from black, Michael Powell decided on the spot that the effect would be too cheesy. When Jack Cardiff told him to look through the camera, Cardiff then deliberately breathed right onto the lens, which fogged the glass for a few seconds until it evaporated. Powell loved the idea and had him use it for the shot. See more »

Goofs

While Peter is riding up the stairway with Conductor 71, they pass by the statues (on the left side of the staircase) of Lincoln, then Plato, then Mohammed, and then Solomon. When Peter realizes he needs to go back down the stairs, the statue of Lincoln can again be seen as the next statue coming up. Then, after he stands up to leave, the statue of Mohammed is once again next to him. But we correctly never see a representation of Mohammed, we only see the base of the statue with his name-plate on it. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Narrator: This is the universe. Big, isn't it?
See more »

Crazy Credits

Foreword (Scrolled up the screen at the start of the film): This is a story of two Worlds the one we know and another which exists only in the mind of a young airman whose life & imagination have been violently shaped by war [Pauses, then scrolls up to reveal] Any resemblance to any other world known or unknown is purely coincidental. See more »

Alternate Versions

The US release was cut to avoid showing the naked shepherd boy in the sand dunes. See more »

Connections

Featured in The Story of Making the Film They're a Weird Mob (1966) See more »

Soundtracks

Scherzo
(1842) (uncredited)
from "A Midsummer Night's Dream, Op.61"
Written by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy
Played on a record at the Shakespeare rehearsal
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Beautiful
20 October 2001 | by jonathandoe_se7enSee all my reviews

A Matter of Life and Death, what can you really say that would properly do justice to the genius and beauty of this film. Powell and Pressburger's visual imagination knows no bounds, every frame is filled with fantastically bold compositions. The switches between the bold colours of "the real world" to the stark black and white of heaven is ingenious, showing us visually just how much more vibrant life is. The final court scene is also fantastic, as the judge and jury descend the stairway to heaven to hold court over Peter (David Niven)'s operation.

All of the performances are spot on (Roger Livesey being a standout), and the romantic energy of the film is beautiful, never has there been a more romantic film than this (if there has I haven't seen it). A Matter of Life and Death is all about the power of love and just how important life is. And Jack Cardiff's cinematography is reason enough to watch the film alone, the way he lights Kim Hunter's face makes her all the more beautiful, what a genius, he can make a simple things such as a game of table tennis look exciting. And the sound design is also impeccable; the way the sound mutes at vital points was a decision way ahead of its time

This is a true classic that can restore anyone's faith in cinema, under appreciated on its initial release and by today's audiences, but one of my all time favourites, which is why I give this film a 10/10, in a word - Beautiful.


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