Matter of Life and Death, A (1946)

A Matter of Life and Death (1946), written, produced and directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger.

Aka Stairway to Heaven.

In the last days of WW2 a British bomber pilot -- sole survivor, plane on fire -- is coming in hard. He has to jump without a parachute. In his final moments he has an audio-only meet-cute with an American female radio operator. It's love that lasts a few minutes, maybe a lifetime.

Afterwards, he is stunned to find himself still alive. Or is he? Is this heaven? No: heaven is a separate black-and-white art deco realm with war dead pouring in, happy to be there; the American air crews head straight for the Coke machine. As in Here Comes Mr Jordan (1941), the afterlife messengers have made a mistake: he was supposed to die and now they have to get him over to the Other Side by hook or crook.

I know my rights, he says. I want a Hearing.

Like of a lot of these metaphysical fantasies, it is very sweet, bordering on unsettling. The clever bit here is that he may be suffering from a brain injury and hallucinating the other-worldly part. The plot could go either way. As the psychologist says, it doesn't matter: he believes it and his survival depends on him winning his case as much as on a successful surgery.

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Photographed by Jack Cardiff. Score by Allan Gray.

As I write this I see that a Criterion Blu-ray is due in July 2018. My thumbnails are from an old DVD.