British Universities Film & Video Council

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Matter of Life and Death, A

Alternative title
Stairway to Heaven
Synopsis
A British wartime aviator who cheats death by miraculously surviving bailing out of his plane without a parachute must argue for his life before a celestial court. Fantasy film, ostensibly produced with the intention of improving Anglo-American relations after the war. A key sequence features a rehearsal of an amateur production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the Pyramus and Thisbe scene (V i). Two lovers trying to communicate and being restrained by an imaginary wall echoes one of the film’s major themes.
'A glittering wartime fantasia...it ranks among the greatest films ever made, a shimmering jewel in the crown of British cinema’ (The Guardian, 2019).
Language
English
Country
Great Britain
Medium
Film
Technical information
Black-and-white / Sound
Year of release
1945
Duration
103 mins; 9,346 feet

Credits

Director
Emeric Pressburger; Michael Powell
Producer
Emeric Pressburger; Michael Powell
Cinematographer
Jack Cardiff
Screenplay
Emeric Pressburger; Michael Powell
Music
Allan Gray
Art Direction
Alfred Junge
Cast
David NivenPeter Carter
Kim HunterJune
Marius GoringConductor 71
Raymond MasseyAbraham Furlan
Robert AtkinsThe Vicar
Robert CooteBob
Roger LiveseyDoctor Reeves

Additional Details

Production type
Fiction Films
Plays
Midsummer Night’s Dream, A
Subjects
Film studies
Keywords
cinema - UK; Shakespeare, William (1564-1616); Film history

Notes

General
Robert Atkins, the vicar organising the play’s production, was a noted Shakespearean actor appearing in HAMLET (1913) and THE TEMPEST (1956).

Archive

Name

BFI National Archive

Web
http://www.bfi.org.uk/archive-collections/searching-access-collections/research-viewing-services External site opens in new window
Phone
020 7255 1444
Fax
020 7436 0165
Address
21 Stephen Street
London
W1T 1LN

Distributor (Sale)

Name

Retail outlets

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