Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Matter of Life and Death (1946)

I’ve decided to dispense with the “Short Review” preceding the titles of my posts. Although some reviews are more in depth and some are merely a way of recording the films I watch this year, I suppose people can figure out the length of the post by looking at it! Besides, it looked rather cluttered.

 So…on to today’s review!

Feb. 13, 2011

37. A Matter of Life and Death (1946)

Starring David Niven, Roger Livesey, Raymond Massey, Kim Hunter
Written, Produced and Directed by Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger

Plot: "A British wartime aviator who cheats death must argue for his life before a celestial court." (from IMDb)

This is impressively conceived, but it's just too odd for me to like. It does have a lot going for it: well-done special effects, captivating use of color and scenery, good performances, and an original plot. I liked many of the actors--David Niven was ideal for the lead role; Kim Hunter was believable as the all-American girl (though her character could’ve perhaps used more dimension); and Roger Livesey interjected just the right amount of honest sentiment and humor to his part. Yet the film as a whole still wasn't my favorite. To be fair, I rarely like any sort of science fiction or fantasy films. Even ones that everyone else loves.

One thing I found unsettling was the depiction of 'heaven'. (I realize that there is the possibility that the entire thing was in Peter's mind, but I’m referring to the way the afterlife was depicted, not whether it was meant to be real). As a Christian, I believe heaven to be the goal of life and a place of perfect happiness through union with God. To see it as a rather eerie prison which one seeks to avoid was problematic for me. Though, of course, there wouldn’t be a movie if it wasn’t portrayed this way.  Also, the entire argument for Peter staying on earth--that he had fallen in love--didn't make sense. Many people that die leave loved ones behind. So despite the celestial error, what makes his case different? It was things like these (as well as my general dislike for fantasy) that made the film fall flat for me.

I didn’t detest this movie, though; it just failed to resonate with me. I know many people love it and I definitely think it is worth checking out—especially if you think you might be one of those people. : )

Oh, and I just had to add: My favorite scene was the one where Niven is walking on the beach. That shot was just so ethereally beautiful against the background of the waves and the sky.

Note: this film is also known by it's American title, Stairway to Heaven.

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