At the end of WWII, the US and Great Britain, having just participated in a war to vanquish the greatest evil of modern times, were at a cross-roads. Resentment took hold against the American service-people who were still quartered in the British Isles. Territorial apportionment occasionally set Brit vs Yank against one another as the geopolitical stage was set for the post-war period.
What was needed, according to the British Ministry of Information, was a film to smooth feelings between the allies. The movie that resulted from this mandate may or may not have helped at the time. One thing is for sure, it has lived on in the hearts of people of all nationalities and is newly discovered by serious filmgoers all the time.
The team known as "The Archers," Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, had already made a masterpiece, THE LIFE & DEATH OF COLONEL BLIMP (1943) and several other good films, but A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH arguably surpasses everything they did before or since - not an insignificant task.
David Niven, who was both a matinee idol and a great screen actor plays a British RAF pilot who, in a moment of distress, makes a radio call to an American radio operator - (Kim Hunter) - which proves to be very important in the ensuing moments, which take a turn toward the supernatural. That's all we'll say, but you can be assured that the film is both technically astounding and emotionally moving, a true work of art.
Here is British critic Mark Kermode introducing the film. You should note that there are some mild spoiler elements in the video.