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Also known as Stairway to Heaven, A Matter of Life and Death is the remarkable British fantasy film that became the surprise hit of 1946. David Niven stars as Peter Carter, a World War II RAF pilot who is forced to bail out of his crippled plane without a parachute. He wakes up to find he has landed on Earth utterly unharmed...which wasn't supposed to happen according to the rules of heaven. A celestial court argues over whether to claim Carter's life or let him survive to wed his American sweetheart (Kim Hunter). During an ...

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cheathamg

Mar 19, 2009

A Fine Old Fantasy, of sorts

Fantasies in which the main character or characters stepped outside outside reality for a brief period used to be much more common than now. This film has the premise that the hero (David Niven) should have died but didn't, due to climatic conditions interfering with the heavenly collector. When the mistake is discovered, the collector is sent to get him. However, he doesn't want to go, having met the girl of his dreams in the interim. Niven files an appeal and a celestial tribunal is assembled. Interestingly, while the audience is willing to accept the reality of the fantasy, the film contrasts Niven's experience, i.e. talking to angels, moving back and forth between this world and the next, etc., with the idea that it may all be a psychotic break caused by a brain condition. The film is well written and well acted with a great deal of dramatic tension. It was made immediately following WW II and makes much of the concept of a new world brotherhood sweeping away the detritus of old world hatreds and fears. It is old fashioned and perhaps corny when viewed from the point of view of modern sophistication and cynicism, but if viewed with the hope and optimism held by the people who survived that conflict, It is a film of great beauty.

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