Kick-Back Friday: #123
Britain’s second most-beloved movie of all time (if one film poll is to be believed), A Matter of Life and Death (1946) was finally (finally) pounded out on DVD last year. David Niven is a WW2 pilot who attempts to avert a certain, imminent death while falling in love with an American radio dispatcher (Kim Hunter). Like Heaven Can Wait (both versions) and The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941), A Matter of Life and Death concerns the fanciful struggle between the desire to continue an earthly existence, with all its ephemeral virtues, and the demands of mortality, the gods, or whatever you want to call it.
The distinctiveness of this movie lies in its juxtaposition of a black-and-white afterlife against a very technicolor existence on Earth (in a wry homage to The Wizard of Oz); the adherence to intricacies of British jurisprudence (even in the afterlife); and the attempt to weave in a neurologic disorder* (somewhat dubiously, I might add) to explain Niven’s visions of his afterlife courier, an executed French aristocrat. The courier, or Conductor, as he is called, has got to be one of the most bizarre filmic oddities around, both visually and in personality—even by the very liberal standards of eighteenth-century French nobility.
* Chronic, adhesive arachnoiditis due to a previous head injury.