A Matter of Life and Death (1946)
Written, Directed, and Produced by
Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger
... films to live by ...
[Released on DVD (Sony Pictures / Region 1 / 2009) as The Films of Michael Powell – a two-disc set, including A Matter of Life and Death and Age of Consent]
Watching the films of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, also known as The Archers, is like slicing off a part of the universe and holding it in your hand. A close view of everything that is possible. The films have many layers and are never clearly defined by any one central character or action. Their works are among the most personal artistic views that can be presented in cinema. The stories are always emotional but avoid sentimentality. Each film creates a new world.
Characters in an Archers’ production do tend to represent ideas and ideals but never lose their own characterization. Allegories with real people, with real situations – even in the midst of outlandish settings. The landscapes found in their stories are necessary parts of the auteur’s vision. In fact, the role of landscape – consider films such as I Know Where I’m Going, The Small Back Room, Black Narcissus – is what separates these filmmakers from all others.
A Matter of Life and Death, a remarkable piece of cinema, is part psychological, emotional, ideological, and even metaphysical – though not religious. The story itself, a familiar one, is given so many twists that it stays fresh. By the end of the film, notions of real and unreal cannot be separated. For me that is one of the film’s strengths.
The principle actors – David Niven, Kim Hunter, Roger Livesey – give strong performances. The look of the film is stunning - filled with visual and aural rhymes –: stars, lights, flickers of red and yellow, black and white, sky to land, heaven to earth, circles & rectangles, time, games of chess, music, alarms, blinds, brick and stairs. A film experience, not to be missed, worth many viewings.
Can a starving man prove he’s hungry except by eating?