A Matter of Life and Death (Stairway to Heaven). 1946. Great Britain. Written and directed by Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger. 104 min.
With David Niven, Kim Hunter, Marius Goring, Roger Livesey. Moments before his plane crashes, RAF pilot Peter Carter (Niven) makes radio contact with an American operator named June. When the heavenly conductor dispatched to Earth to retrieve him gets lost in the thick fog over the English Channel, Peter awakes having cheated death, and he quickly falls for June. From that point, he is suspended between Heaven and Earth—and between black-and-white and Technicolor. This was a breakthrough film for Powell, who remarked, “from then on, there was no more realism in films, only surrealism.” The design centerpiece of the film is Alfred Junge’s spectacular stairway to Heaven. Preserved by the Academy Film Archive.