The Masters  
The Powell & Pressburger Pages

Dedicated to the work of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger and all the other people, both actors and technicians who helped them make those wonderful films.

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Submitted by Mark Fuller

A Matter of Life and Death

'By Our Film Critic'

From: Sunday Dispatch
3 November 1946

A picture chosen to be the subject of the first Royal Command Film Performance should, of necessity, be a good one. And here it is - A Matter of Life and Death (Empire).

     Excellent imagination has been used in the making of this story of an airman, Squadron Leader Peter Carter (played by David Niven) who, having leapt from a battered bomber without his parchute, is under the impression he is dead. This because of certain hallucinations he has as a result of concussion.

     An agent in the form of a Frenchman who was killed in the French Revolution is sent from the celestial regions to take the airman from earth, but the Frenchman loses his quarry in an English fog, and the rest of the film is devoted to the airman's trial in a celestial court to decide whether he shall go or remain on earth.

     The trial is really a Matter-of-Life-and-Death operation. Watch for the shot of the patient's eye closing under the anaesthetic as he lies watching the ceiling of the operating theatre. You'll swear it's your own eye and that you are succumbing to that anaesthetic.

     The technique used in this, and many other shots, are a real step forward in screen photography. Kim Hunter plays the opposite lead with quiet but telling effect.

     This film was well worthy of their Majesties patronage; it is well worthy of yours.

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