Joseph Fiennes (Shakespeare in Love) stars as Martin Luther, the brilliant man of God whose defiant actions changed the world, in this epic, ravishingly beautiful (The New York Times)film that traces Luther's extraordina... more »ry and exhilarating quest for the people's liberation. Regional princes and the powerful Church wield a fast, firm and merciless grip on 16th-century Germany. But when Martin Luther issues a shocking challenge to their authority, the people declare him their new leaderand hero. Even when threatened with violent death, Luther refuses to back down, sparkinga bloody revolution that shakes the entire continent to its core.« less
"I saw this film in theaters last year and was awed by it.
First of all, the film is not anti-Catholic as some critics have said. It was made in Germany with the cooperation of the Catholic and Lutheran churches there. It is fact based and tells the truth about what happened. It may portray them in a bad light, but calling the film anti-Catholic would be like calling a film about the Holocaust anti-German.
This film shows the brutality of the Spanish inquisition and their notoriously anti-Prosestant attacks. Another early Protestant, William Tyndale, was executed for heresy. His 'crime' was translating the Bible into English. Though the Catholic Church did do these things, they have apologized for it.
The film has stunning performances by Joseph Finnes (Ralph Finnes' brother)and Peter Ustinov in his last film role before his death.
On October 31, 1517 A.D. the door of the Wittenberg church had Luther's 95 theses nailed on it, and with that the door to religious freedom was opened. This film should be seen even by secular people because if it were not for Luther, there may have been no seperation of Church and state until many years later.
The film is an absolute must-see for those interested in the Protestant Reformation."
An amazing movie
Moderate Risk | Lakeland, Florida United States | 10/31/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have seen many Luther films over the years. They make him into a superhero. In many senses Luther was a superhero but he didn't set out to be one. What I like about this movie is it brings in other aspects such as the Peasant Revolution and the ensuing slaughter. This is avoided in other movies about Luther. Such topics are risky fare for those hoping to make Martin Luther perfect. After all, Luther's greatest supporters were directly connected to the carnage. The movie makes Luther human for once and this movie isn't one of those boring theological dissertations. Sir Peter Ustinov turns out a magnificent performance as Duke Frederick in this, his final film before his death. I saw this 3 times in the movies and would have seen it more had the movie remained in local theaters longer."
The Man Who Changed How We See God
Kevin L. Nenstiel | Kearney, Nebraska | 10/23/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There have been a lot of movies recently about God (Bruce Almighty) and faith (Dancing at Lughnasa), but many of them have avoided mentioning one word: Christ. Luther breaks that trend by addressing the foundation figure of the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther. This film unabashedly presents the man as both a fallible human being, with crushing fits of self-doubt, and a man in constant pursuit of the mind of God, a man who changed the face of Europe.Luther was and is an ambiguous figure to many, and this movie doesn't try to simplify anything. We see Luther (Joseph Fiennes) in the most productive and tumultuous years of his life, with the movie ending abruptly after the Augsburg Confession. The character of Luther's sponsor, Philip the Wise (Sir Peter Ustinov), is cut down, making him a friendly figure where he was in fact a shrewd politician who tried to use Luther's opinions as a way to enrich state coffers. The figure of Karlstadt (Jochen Horst) is real and receives comment, but the film doesn't really permit Luther to endorse or condemn his rebellion. Luther's wife and sometime foil, the sharp and witty Katerina von Borg (Claire Cox), doesn't even appear until near the end of the film. And Johann Tetzel (Alfred Molina), whose abuses spurred Luther's greatest accomplishments, is treated like a straw man.This movie seems structured at times like a Cliffs Notes of Luther's life and work. Perhaps it's intended to encourage the viewing public to read the books themselves and find out who Luther was. It's certainly not a technical tour-de-force. The opening is cut together with the same abruptness as a trailer, Luther's conversions (he had three, each more profound than the last, like stairsteps) are compressed, the camera is usually unmoving, like a portable stage.But the movie is strong, accurately reflecting who Luther was and what he did. Running just under two hours and allowing plenty of room for the circumstances of Luther's day, it's easy to watch. The environment, including land and cityscapes, are well rendered, the light and sound are clear, and the colors pop.Plainly, this isn't a general-interest film. People who watch it are at least curious about Luther's work, if not already familiar with it. But for a theological art-house movie, it's a cut above most of what's been made in recent years, and eminently watchable. Highly recommended."
A Reluctant Hero
Tim Challies | Oakville, Ontario | 11/22/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I entered the theatre fearing the worst. I saw little reason to expect that a movie being distributed in the mainstream markets would be able to do justice to a character so reviled as Martin Luther. While he is a hero to many, to far more he is a villain - sectarian, racist, arrogant and divisive; a man who tore the Christian world apart and whose legacy remains to this day. I am happy to say that my fears were unfounded. Luther represents the man fairly, portraying him as a reluctant hero and one who, though plagued with doubts about his own abilities, was able to stand firm in the face of fearsome opposition.
The scope of the movie is impressive. It begins in 1505 with a young Luther running and crawling through a field, trying desperately to escape a fierce storm, all the while crying out to Saint Anne to save him. It ends twenty five years later, again with Luther in a field, though this time has is rejoicing, for he has just received the news that Emperor Charles V has given in to the German princes and has allowed Protestantism to survive. The movie ends at the beginning of religious tolerance in Germany.
The initial pace of the move is frantic. We see Luther giving his life to the service of the church and then nervously performing his first mass. We see him wrestling with his sinfulness and with his perception of an angry, vengeful God. He is assigned a task which takes him to Rome and there his disillusionment with the church grows as he sees brothels for priests and finds that the papacy is little more than a money-making institution. The poorest people in society give the little they have to the church to ransom their loved ones from purgatory. At this point the movie begins to slow its pace. After Luther returns home his Father Superior sends him to Wittenberg to study the Bible and it is there that he begins to realize that relics have no value and that indulgences have no Biblical support. He begins to form the theology that would eventually tear him away from the Catholic Church.
From this point on we see him fighting with the church and with his own desire to be an obedient son of the church, but even more to be obedient to the Scriptures which have bound his conscience. Following the Diet of Worms, his popularity explodes among the peasantry. When Luther is whisked away to a safe place by Frederick of Saxony, the Peasant Wars begin and Luther, while first supporting them, soon turns against them. He makes his translation of the Bible in German and eventually meets and marries his wife. The film ends with the meeting at Augsburg where the Princes of Germany reject the papacy and commit to dying rather than submitting again to Roman rule.
While the movie's scope is one of its strengths, it also introduces a weakness. It is difficult to do justice to twenty five years that are so significant and so filled with tumultuous events in a mere two hours. Through the film we see most of Luther's most famous moments - the storm that drove him to commit his life to the church, his stand before the Diet of Worms and his constant wrestling with Satan and with himself. Of course we are introduced to Johan Tetzel and his consciousless hawking of indulgences and hear Luther's biting response. However, several significant events are left out. Strangely, we do not see one of his most well-known incidents where, in deep torment, he threw an ink bottle at Satan. The ink stain remains to this day and is quite a popular tourist attraction.
Perhaps the greatest weakness in the movie is that we see very little of Luther's theology. This is a strange oversight as Luther was primarily a theologian. We never see him wrestling with Romans and only ever hear one vague presentation of the gospel. No one utters the word "justification." Similarly, while we hear one of his hymns in the background, we are never introduced to Luther as musician and songwriter. After watching this movie, one would assume that Luther's stance against Rome was based almost entirely on indulgences. This is much like saying that the U.S. Civil War was fought only over the issue of slavery - it greatly oversimplifies a complex matter. While indulgences were surely a significant factor, there were other important ones that played a critical role. So while the producers did justice to one area, they neglected to give due time to others. Time constraints would have been the determining factor in this, I am sure.
The acting, directing and cinematography are solid throughout the movie and do a great job of transporting the viewer to the sixteenth century. Joseph Fiennes with his Shakespearean training was a great choice to play Luther and does a very good job of showing the emotional torment Luther faced. While the other actors also perform their parts well, I would like to make special mention of Peter Ustinov who portrays Frederick of Saxony. It was wonderful to see his growing concern and admiration for Luther and his disappointment in learning that his massive collection of relics was little more than an idolatrous pursuit. One of the movie's best moments was seeing his disgust at this collection of useless trinkets. What once was his pride and joy now brought him shame.
The end analysis is that Luther is a good movie and one I highly recommend. I was disappointed that the movie spent little time exploring Luther's theology, but admittedly theology may not make for interesting movies. However, the movie's many strengths by far outweigh its weaknesses. We see a man who was in every way human. He fought with Satan, with God, with his church and with himself, but through it all allowed the Scriptures to guide him and set in motion what would soon become the Protestant faith that we so love. All believers owe Luther a debt of gratitude. I walked out of the movie thanking God for raising up such a man rather than allowing us to continue to flounder in spiritual darkness."
Packed with important Christian history
A.Trendl HungarianBookstore.com | Glen Ellyn, IL USA | 12/01/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As religious biographies set to film go, "Luther" is among the best. Few serious directors have taken on the topic of Christian history since "The Ten Commandments." I left the theater better informed about Martin Luther and the Reformation.
Although important parts of Luther's life, positions and views are glazed over or ignored, it serves to incite curiosity about his 95 Theses and the Augsburg Confession.
The difficulty with a film portrayal of one of Christian history's more influential figures is that the historical Martin Luther could not be captured into a couple of hours. It is just a movie, and is not supposed to address complex eternal questions.
Protestant Christians will bristle at the brief look at Luther's theology, and the emphasis on the politics. What else could a filmmaker do? Already, such a film was destined for a short life in the theaters, and the fact is true: much of the issues surrounding Luther stemmed from his reaction to politics.
Roman Catholics might be upset by the anti-Catholic slant. I do not think the film was meant to put Catholicism in a bad light as much as it was meant to show what events and concerns caused Luther to react. The movie was aptly titled "Luther" and not "The Beginning of the Reformation" or "The Great Religious Revolt."
Indulgences have never been one of Catholicism's honorable or defensible provisions. There is no telling of Luther's story without examining the abuses of men looking to profit from the fear and guilt of illiterate believers. A modern Catholic will rightly note that personal Scripture among the laity is now encouraged by Rome, and be frustrated as he acknowledges indulgences are still part of the present Catholic theology.
Lutherans will find the movie intriguing, realizing Luther's battle against Rome begot their own denomination. Coming back to the origin of the Lutheran faith will be exciting and educational.
Joseph Fiennes is believable, albeit a little wooden. His Luther will remind viewers of Jeremy Irons' character in "The Mission." He is noble, calm and steadfast. Like Irons' priest, Luther faces great adversity through his desire to follow Jesus Christ.
Luther comes across as a noble would-be martyr. He shows godly courage, and a few levels of depth. What is not shown are his own imperfections and inconsistencies.
When Luther writhes in angst against temptation and evil, he speaks angrily to Satan as would anyone to his most cursed enemy. Like C. S. Lewis' Wormwood in "The Screwtape Letters," we can taste the insidious, pervasive nature of Satan. The spiritual conflict endured by Luther is not the glamorized head-spinning of "The Exorcist," but shows that he was not merely fighting flesh and blood entities through academic arguments.
My recommendation of "Luther" is 100%. Sunday school, CCD and high school groups could watch it as fodder for discussion. This isn't for the "Adventures In Odyssey" or "Veggie Tales" crowd.
A solid companion to the movie is "Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther" by Roland Herbert Bainton. It is an excellent addition to church video libraries.