A Matter of Life and Death

Squadron Leader Peter David Carter (David Niven) is a pilot in World War Two. When his plane is downed over the English Channel he shares his final moments with a radio operator he’s never met (Kim Hunter). When he miraculously survives, he finds himself in a cosmic court battle to determine whether he’s entitled to change the date of his death.

3376

A theologically-infused comedy which dices with death, this is The Seventh Seal meets Slaughterhouse Five. The opening tells us the film is entirely in Carter’s imagination. But for the premise to work this can’t be the case, and would mean he imagined full scenes he wasn’t there for, suggesting that this was more to avoid winding up the religious establishment and/or God, who were more sensitive to that sort of thing in the 1940s.maxresdefault-2-e1554034808930.jpg

If it ‘really’ happened, it would present a certain interpretation of life after death which appears to satirise the concept of a divine plan, risking offence to the silent majority. But since then people realised the silent majority were being silent because they weren’t that bothered, and now that sort of thing is acceptable.

It makes brilliant use of special effects, including a vast open-air courtroom in the stars, and a moving staircase which stretches from Earth to the heavens, lined with statues of the greatest figures in history. This makes it feel like it was made decades later than it actually was. It also has affecting performances from Niven and Hunter. The result is a finely balanced and brilliantly executed philosophical musing, and a superb example of what can be achieved on a low budget.

2 responses to “A Matter of Life and Death

  1. Pingback: The Sound Barrier | Screen Goblin·

  2. Pingback: Jazz Odyssey: All That Jazz | Screen Goblin·

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.