powered by AFI
In Villars, France, in 1918, American pilot Lt. Peter Stevens is shot down during combat and dies. Twelve years later, in Schenectady, New York, young John Bolan hops into a World War I fighter plane and, miraculously, flies it expertly. In the 1950s, John, now a commercial pilot aboard his plane, cannot discern why mature passenger Jane Stone looks so familiar, but is plagued by the vague memory for the rest of the flight. During the landing, he experiences a sudden, sharp recollection of a fighter plane crashing, and, thinking he must escape German bullets, steers the plane into a dive. To save the passengers, copilot Russell Smith is forced to knock John out, and when John wakes in a psychiatric hospital, he tells Dr. Thomas Bryant that he is Peter Stevens, in Villars, and the date is April 29, 1918. Hoping to spark his memory, Bryant brings in John's girl friend, Lois Gordon, and although John recognizes her, he relives the crash and collapses. The next day, John awakes as himself and discovers that stern airline executive Mr. Hackett is heading an investigation into the near-crash. After Lois visits and whispers that her answer to his earlier marriage proposal is yes, Hackett arrives and demands an account of the flight. John reluctantly describes his World War I memory, but Hackett scorns him and later demands a diagnosis from Bryant, for his shareholders. Just as the psychiatrist explains that he has an as-yet unidentified neurosis and must stay in treatment, John sneaks out of the hospital, and when Hackett discovers he is gone, he charges Bryant with full responsibility for John's safety. John goes straight to his friend, lawyer Robert Allen, who at John's urging calls the Veteran's Administration in Washington, D.C. for information on Peter Stevens. While awaiting word, John goes to Lois' apartment and there explains that he is convinced he is a reincarnation of Peter, a belief confirmed when Bob calls to tell him his memories about Peter's death are all accurate. Realizing he must live with a truth no one else will believe, John sets out to prove his theory by visiting Jane, who lives in Philadelphia. She welcomes him in but, after hearing his tale, orders him to leave. John begs her to offer some insight into why he recognizes her, and she coldly reveals that she was Peter's fiancée and, after grieving for him for over thirty years, is hurt by this ridiculous claim of reincarnation. Meanwhile, Bryant visits Lois and, showing her a readily available history book detailing Peter's death, explains that many people construct a false memory of events they have read or heard about. Convinced that gaining any more "proof" of his past life will only increase John's delusions, Lois tries to discourage John when he returns that night. After John promises to return to the hospital if she visits Jane, however, Lois agrees. The next day, while John undergoes a series of tests for Bryant, Lois lunches with Jane, explaining that John's only hope of recovery is to learn definitively from the older woman that he is not linked to Peter. Although Jane, still shocked and pained by John's visit, at first flatly refuses, she gives in after Lois pleads with her to help save her fiancé's mind. They travel together to Bryant's office, where the doctor hypothesizes that John's "memories" may be a form of extrasensory perception, or mental telepathy. He brings in Jane, and after she argues that the exercise is pointless and cruel, she agrees to ask John some facts about Peter's life. After each question, about Peter's best friend and mother, John slowly admits that he has no answers. Bryant then urges Jane to ask a more personal question, and reluctantly, she requests that John describe the moment Peter proposed to her. After John details the event precisely, down to the invented song they sang, she secretly hands an object to Bryant and asks John to describe the gift that Peter gave her, which no one else has ever seen. John describes the brooch's design and the inscription inside, after which Jane tearfully thanks them all for proving to her beyond a doubt that Peter's soul has lived on. Later, Bryant declares John perfectly healthy, and concludes that the only way people can live in harmony is to accept differing viewpoints and experiences.