13
Mar 06

A Matter Of Stuff And Nonsense

Do You SeePost a comment • 337 views

“Position – nil, repeat nil. Age – 27, 27, did you get that? Very important. Education – interrupted, violently interrupted. Religion – Church of England. Politics – Conservative by nature, Labour by experience. What’s your name?”

I happened to watch “A Matter Of Life And Death” for the first time in about fifteen years at the weekend. I have always liked it, but watching it with more adult eyes it is a remarkably strange film. As a vague idea of a jolly and secular, Ministry of Death/Employment representation of heaven it is probably very influential in the undermining of the Church of England. The film is clear to start off that this is about Niven’s feverish imagination of heaven, and then buys into it totally. Why is heaven black and white, the Earth Technicolour – Wizard Of Oz did it the other way around? Where is God? Is heaven a meritocracy? And is the film about life and death at all, or the tricky relationship between the UK and the USA?

Clearly it is all about the latter: where a cricket commentary is deigned to be all that is bad and incomprehensible about Britain. Remarkably of all the things which could be chosen, this is probably something that has changed the least in the intervening years. The film tiptoes around the horrors of slavery and Empire, but suggests them. Gives its posh hero a social conscience, and is a bunch of clever blokes being clever at each other (the women have little to do). But what is it all about, and does it work as a fantasy? Yes. But it is a very strange film packed with remarkably good lines. You know where you are from its space-set off:

“This is the universe. Big, isn’t it.”

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