A Matter Of Life And Death
RELEASED OUT NOW! 1990 | 15 | Blu-ray (4K/standard)
Director Joel Schumacher
Cast Kiefer Sutherland, Julia Roberts,
Kevin Bacon, William Baldwin
Director Joel Schumacher had a simple credo when it came to cinema: “No one pays for under the top.” So this tale of med school students illicitly testing the boundaries of life receives the full MTV gothic treatment: more sinister religious statuary and billowing white sheets than Ultravox or Bonnie Tyler could ever dream of in their ’80s pomp.
Stunningly photographed by Jan de Bont, the visuals threaten to dilute the chills. It’s an improbably sumptuous film in places, summoning otherworldly visions that resemble everything
Ultimately has more premise than plot
from an Imax documentary on icy mountainscapes to upmarket monochrome porn.
Ultimately there’s more premise than plot, but the story’s central confrontation with the frontiers of mortality still has a taboo-rattling power. And it’s a bonus that the Gen X superstars in the cast are allowed to be messy, complicated souls as they reap their karmic paybacks in the name of science.
Extras There’s a personable, fact-crammed audio commentary by entertainment journalists Max Evry and Bryan Reesman, who have clearly done their prep. Elsewhere an impressive set of new interviews musters key creative talent: screenwriter Peter Filardi (19 minutes) reveals the story’s surprising origins in the Iran Contra affair of the ’80s; DOP Jan de Bont and chief lighting technician Edward Ayer (18 minutes) are particularly interesting on the influence of Rembrandt’s “God light”; production designer Eugenio Zanetti and art director Larry Lundy (11 minutes) talk about the importance of mythological imagery; while composer James Newton Howard and orchestrator Chris Boardman (11 minutes) discuss the score and costume designer Susan Becker (six minutes) talks us through the wardrobe choices. Plus: trailer, gallery, booklet. Nick Setchfield
Schumacher dropped The from original title The Flatliners, as The Lost Boys taught him that “no one’s going to say it anyway”.