Movie Mom

Movie Mom

‘Stairway to Heaven’ on Hulu

posted by Nell Minow

I was delighted to find the neglected gem “Stairway to Heaven” (sometimes known as “A Matter of Life and Death”) available on Hulu. Fans of classic movies and spiritual themes should be sure to take a look.

It is a 1946 British film starring David Niven about a WWII pilot who saves his crew and then, realizing that his plane cannot make it back, and with his parachute destroyed, leaps from theplane, preferring to die by falling than in flames. But because his “guide” from the other world does not pick him up, he is caught between this world and the next.

The story works on two levels; you can see it as a literal struggle between heaven and earth or you can see it as a metaphor for what is going on internally as he struggles to recover from a head injury. On both levels, the strongest tie he has to life is the connection he made in a brief conversation with an American military radio operator (Kim Hunter) just before jumping.

This is a beautiful and deeply moving film and very resonant with the themes of “The Adjustment Bureau,” opening next month, inspired by a story by Philp K. Dick.

  • Alicia

    “Stairway to Heaven” is a fascinating movie – I saw it on “The Late Late Show” many years ago at least once. I’ve recently discovered the movies of Michael Powell (and his frequent collaborator, Emeric Pressburger). I watched “The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp,” which was absolutely stunning and nothing like I thought it would be. I’ve got a number of Michael Powell’s other movies in my Netflix queue.

  • Nell Minow

    You are in for a treat, Alicia. Powell/Pressburger movies are always stunning. I have heard for a long time that Scorsese is working on a documentary about Powell, one of his heroes and the late husband of Scorsese’s closest collaborator, his editor Thelma Schoonmaker. I especially love “I Know Where I’m Going” and “The Red Shoes.” Enjoy!

  • Alicia

    Thanks, Nell. It seems that Powell and Pressburger are “director’s directors.” Speaking of “The Red Shoes,” someone from my movie club wants to show it next month. I was planning to see it at the AFI this weekend, so I think I’ll plan on viewing it twice. I didn’t realize that Thelma Schoonmaker had been married to Michael Powell, but I’d heard that Scorsese loved the duel scene in “The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp” and that he named two minor characters in “Boxcar Bertha” Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. P.S. I may try my chance at the outguessing Roger Ebert Oscar contest :-)

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