“Tell me: do you believe in the survival of the human personality after death?”
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
The idea of a pilot-in-crisis being able to reach a beautiful operator on the ground and connect with her romantically:
… then survive a fall without a parachute:
… plays into the ultimate fantasy so many must have held about their sons, brothers, and partners during the war: they’re only missing, not deceased; they will reconnect with their loved ones; they can fight back against death. It’s a lovely wishful vision, richly portrayed here through Jack Cardiff’s lush cinematography (Technicolor on Earth, b&w for heaven):
… Alfred Junge’s other-worldly sets:
… and a storyline that repeatedly goes in unexpected directions. We wonder — what role will Livesey’s motorcycle-riding neurosurgeon play in the drama?
Will effete Goring be successful in his ploys to bring Niven over to the heavenly side?
What function will Raymond Massey play in the “courtroom” proceedings — and why does it seem like the storyline has suddenly become a referendum on British-American relations?
While I’m not a huge fan of the final “movement” of this cinematic symphony (i.e., the heavenly courtroom scenes), this doesn’t really matter given that it’s the visuals and sentiments that count the most, and those are on ample display throughout. This unique film should be seen by all film fanatics as a fine example of creative, romantic expression at its most liberated.
Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:
(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)