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A Matter of Life and Death (1946)

Fantasy | 104 minutes
3,71 241 votes

Genre: Fantasy / Romance

Duration: 104 minuten

Alternative titles: Stairway to Heaven / Een Zaak van Leven en Dood

Country: United Kingdom

Directed by: Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger

Stars: David Niven, Kim Hunter and Roger Livesey

IMDb score: 8,0 (25.332)

Releasedate: 15 December 1946


This movie is not available on US streaming services.


A Matter of Life and Death plot

"Neither Heaven nor Earth could keep them apart!"

In May 1945 the plane of the British pilot Peter Carter crashes, where he should have died. Death cannot find him quickly because of all the fog, while Carter in the meantime falls in love with the American June, with whom he maintains radio contact. When Death meets him twenty hours late, he states that he deserves a second chance as his survival was not his fault.

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Full Cast & Crew

Actors and actresses

Peter Carter

Conductor 71

An English Pilot

Bob Trubshawe

An American Pilot

Chief Recorder

Doctor Reeves

Reviews & comments


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avatar van Moviestar1979


  • 1587 messages
  • 939 votes

A deserved classic! JK Rowling and Michael Sheen's Favorite Movie. Personally, I also enjoyed myself.

The cast includes David Niven, Kim Hunter and Raymond Massey. Niven and Massey both died on July 29, 1983. Originally, the role of June was to be played by Betty Field. Alfred Hitchcock played an important part in the casting of Kim Hunter. The then unknown actress had previously auditioned for Notorious (1946). Hitchcock arranged a meeting with director Michael Powell, and he agreed to let Hunter play the part of June. Furthermore, a young Richard Attenborough is present, despite the fact that he only had one line of text. ("It's Heaven, isn't it?") Lois Maxwell made her acting debut with this film. The role of The Judge was initially to be played by George Arliss, but was eventually assigned to Abraham Sofaer.

The film premiered on November 1, 1946 at the Empire, Leicester Square in London. King George VI and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother were present. This marked a major breakthrough for the film. I think the technology for 1946 is remarkably good. For example, a large escalator was built that took 3 months to complete. The cost amounted to over £3,000. Directors Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger won a Bodil Award, and were nominated at the New York Film Critics Circle Awards of 1946.

4.0 *

dutch flagTranslated from Dutch · View original

avatar van Lovelyboy


  • 3218 messages
  • 2361 votes

A very special and catchy product this film, especially considering its age.

An interesting story develops in that sense the pilot who seems to be missing out of nowhere. Furthermore, the sky is particularly striking, something that is presented with a lot of humor. The comments about everyone being equal 'above', but also measuring and distributing the wings tends to be dryly comical. Although an interesting dilemma presents itself, the film strikes me as a bit dead between the romantic situations with June and the posturing at the doctor's house. I really hope that the film has more to offer than this.

But luckily everything comes into a very exciting and stylish momentum after that. The staircase scene is phenomenal, as are other scenes in heaven in terms of style and shadows, as is the choice for color on the world and black and white at the top. Subtle perhaps hint how 'black and white' his absence in heaven is viewed. It is very obvious that the doctor will defend him and I must say that he does so with gusto. Good role from Roger Livesey. The whole 'lawcase' is a very comical and sharp event, culminating in the test on the stairs and the proof of what love is. In that sense, the film gives the impression of consciously or unconsciously exposing other philosophical issues as well. The interesting dichotomy between the life-saving and necessary operation on Earth, while the choice and judgment of what will happen is actually above, with the higher power. So is also fuel for discussion like coincidence, miracles and other forces in the universe. Miracles exist, maybe that's John Oswalt's big message, we just don't see it.

Fascinating film, beautifully presented, as said very stylish at certain moments, well acted and what I do find striking is a dark person in the jury. Looks daring to me for 1946.

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avatar van Shadowed


  • 9036 messages
  • 5627 votes


A stroke of luck, I usually never like old films like this, but luckily this is a positive surprise that I got through much easier than I had thought beforehand. And that is certainly worth a compliment.

However, there are still certain choices and elements that the film does not quite do well in my opinion. Especially the choice to throw everything on the normal world in color, but especially the impressive pieces in the sky in black and white is in my opinion very incomprehensible.

Fortunately, the scenes in the sky do look impressive, that's for sure. Surprisingly nicely decorated and detailed for the time. Also some scenes in the "real" world look imaginative, and are helped by some color.

However, I find the romance a bit lazy and too easy. There is hardly a chemistry, which is also not really well developed out there. They take this one step further than "love at first sight" and move it to "love at first word". It's all too fast and coincidental.

Final phase also lacks some power. The lawsuit isn't exactly exciting and the outcome is somewhat lazy. You won't convince me by a simple "oh they love each other so much, I'm won over". It's these little things that ruin the final experience.

Nevertheless, quite surprised, imaginatively brought and original scenes in heaven outside the best original plot. Got through pretty easily. So you see that old movies don't necessarily need massive overacting.

dutch flagTranslated from Dutch · View original