Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger

A Matter of Life and Death

A Matter of Life and Death

After miraculously surviving a jump from his burning plane, RAF pilot Peter Carter (David Niven) encounters the American radio operator (Kim Hunter) to whom he has just delivered his dying wishes, and, face-to-face on a tranquil English beach, the pair fall in love. When a messenger from the hereafter arrives to correct the bureaucratic error that spared his life, Peter must mount a fierce defense for his right to stay on earth—painted by production designer Alfred Junge and cinematographer Jack Cardiff as a rich Technicolor Eden—climbing a wide staircase to stand trial in a starkly beautiful, black-and-white modernist afterlife. Intended to smooth tensions between the wartime allies Britain and America, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s richly humanistic A Matter of Life and Death traverses time and space to make a case for the transcendent value of love.

Film Info

Special Features

  • New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • Interview from 2008 with filmmaker Martin Scorsese
  • Audio commentary from 2009 featuring film scholar Ian Christie
  • New interview with editor Thelma Schoonmaker, director Michael Powell’s widow
  • New short documentary on the film’s special effects featuring film historian Craig Barron and visual-effects artist Harrison Ellenshaw
  • The Colour Merchant, a 1998 short film featuring cinematographer Jack Cardiff
  • The South Bank Show: “Michael Powell,” a 1986 television program featuring Powell
  • Restoration demonstration
  • PLUS: An essay by critic Stephanie Zacharek

New cover by Laura Smith

Purchase Options

Special Features

  • New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • Interview from 2008 with filmmaker Martin Scorsese
  • Audio commentary from 2009 featuring film scholar Ian Christie
  • New interview with editor Thelma Schoonmaker, director Michael Powell’s widow
  • New short documentary on the film’s special effects featuring film historian Craig Barron and visual-effects artist Harrison Ellenshaw
  • The Colour Merchant, a 1998 short film featuring cinematographer Jack Cardiff
  • The South Bank Show: “Michael Powell,” a 1986 television program featuring Powell
  • Restoration demonstration
  • PLUS: An essay by critic Stephanie Zacharek

New cover by Laura Smith

A Matter of Life and Death
Cast
David Niven
Peter Carter
Roger Livesey
Dr. Reeves
Raymond Massey
Abraham Farlan
Kim Hunter
June
Marius Goring
Conductor 71
Abraham Sofaer
The judge
Robert Coote
Bob
Joan Maude
Chief recorder
Kathleen Byron
An angel
Bonor Colleano
An American pilot
Richard Attenborough
An English pilot
Robert Atkins
The vicar
Bob Roberts
Dr. Gaertler
Edwin Max
Dr. McEwen
Betty Potter
Mrs. Tucker
Credits
Director
Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger
Written and produced by
Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger
Production designed by
Alfred Junge
Assistant producer
George Busby
Photographed by
Jack Cardiff
Music composed by
Allan Gray
Conducted by
Walter Goehr
Editor
Reginald Mills
Costumes
Hein Heckroth

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A Matter of Life and Death: The Too-Muchness of It All

A feast of sumptuous color and cinematic imagination, Powell and Pressburger’s postwar masterpiece is also a powerful reckoning with recent history.

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Explore

Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger

Writer, Producer, Director

Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger
Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger

Though The Red Shoes is possibly the most popular and visually entrancing dance film of all time, the producing, directing, and writing team of the British Michael Powell and the Hungarian Emeric Pressburger created numerous other odes to the power of art and the imagination, always going against the realist strain of British cinema. Known by the name of their production company, the Archers, Powell and Pressburger forged a working alliance that lasted from the late thirties to the early seventies, and from the anti-Nazi propaganda of 49th Parallel and the astoundingly designed and edited epic The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp to the erotic, magical excesses of A Canterbury Tale, I Know Where I’m Going!, Black Narcissus, and The Tales of Hoffmann. The duo were never as successful on their own as with each other, though Powell’s controversial Peeping Tom remains one of the most subversive and disturbing films ever made.