A Matter of Life and Death

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A Matter of Life and Death (1946) is a romantic fantasy film set in World War II by the British writer-director-producer team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. It was originally released in the United States under the title Stairway to Heaven, which was derived from the film's most prominent special effect: a broad escalator linking the Other World and Earth. Reversing the convention of The Wizard of Oz, the supernatural scenes are in black and white, while the ones on Earth are in Technicolor.

In 2004, A Matter of Life and Death was named the second greatest British film ever made by the magazine Total Film in a poll of 25 film critics, behind only Get Carter.

Tropes used in A Matter of Life and Death include:
  • All Just a Dream -- We are told it is, probably.
  • Balancing Death's Books -- June is told during the trial that if she wants Carter to live she must be prepared to take his place, because someone has to die.
  • Celestial Bureaucracy -- The afterlife arrival area is a massive customer service desk dedicated to making sure every arrival is filed at the right time. If they aren't then the alarms that have never sounded will sound...
  • Dead to Begin With -- Played with thoroughly throughout.
  • Deliberately Monochrome -- The scenes on Earth are in full color, while those in Heaven are in black and white.

Conductor 71: One is starved for Technicolor up there.

  • Eagle Land -- Farlan is a classic type one with a Patriotic Fervour, persuaded eventually to become something of a type 3.
  • Jury of the Damned -- The jury of dead souls initially selected by Farlan is designed to be biased against the English.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane -- The movie makes a substantial part of its premise being the advancements of the various arguments on either side.
  • Officer O'Hara -- One of the second jury is an Irish-American cop.
  • Or Was It a Dream? -- The obligatory counter point to the All Just a Dream narration
  • Our Angels Are Different -- Officious and incompetent (and French)
  • Patriotic Fervour -- Farlan is more offended by Carter daring to fall in love with an American woman than by his defying Heaven.
  • Stairway to Heaven -- Trope Namer
  • The Power of Love -- The big question, is the power of love alone enough to outweigh the weight of heaven and history. Ultimately it is the most powerful force in the universe.
  • Trial of the Mystical Jury -- Two such juries in fact, to see if the Power of Love is enough to hold back death. The first one rejected by being too prejudiced as it is composed only of historical enemies of Britain. It is then replaced by an all American jury...of first generation immigration from historical enemies of Britain, so as to prove a point.