A Matter of Life and Death

A Matter of Life and Death

Michael Powell (1946)

U Certificate


Our Score
The theatrical stylisation of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger sometimes deflected their thematic purpose, but in this dazzling fantasy they succeed in marrying the two elements to perfection. David Niven stars as an RAF pilot who has a conversation with American servicewoman Kim Hunter as his plane is going down. After his miraculous survival, the two meet and fall in love but he is then told he was meant to die and must defend himself in heaven. Although the film was intended to celebrate the Anglo-American alliance that had prevailed in the Second World War, the Archers production company instead delivered a barbed allegory that called into question not only the strength of the ties between the Allies, but also Britain's continued status as a world power. Few in officialdom rejoiced when it was selected for the first Royal Command Performance, but its political outspokenness, visual audacity and mannered playing now make it one of the most fondly recalled of all British movies.


A Second World War bomber pilot survives jumping out of his stricken plane without a parachute and falls in love with the radio operator he had first spoken to during the fateful flight. A heavenly messenger is sent to tell him he should have died and that his presence is required in the afterlife, but he remains determined to continue his life on Earth and insists on a trial to resolve the issue. Powell and Pressburger's romantic fantasy, starring David Niven, Kim Hunter, Roger Livesey and Marius Goring.

Cast & Crew

Squadron Leader Peter Carter David Niven
June Kim Hunter
Dr Reeves Roger Livesey
Bob Trubshawe Robert Coote
Conductor 71 Marius Goring
Abraham Farlan Raymond Massey
Angel Kathleen Byron
English pilot Richard Attenborough
American pilot Bonar Colleano
Chief recorder Joan Maude
Judge Abraham Sofaer
US crewman Robert Beatty
Prosecuting Council Laurence Payne
Director Michael Powell
Director Emeric Pressburger
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Other Information

Language: EnglishColourTheatrical distributor: Park CircusAvailable on: video, DVD and Blu-rayReleased on: 8 Dec 2017