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|Index||13 reviews in total|
While there are several VHS and DVD issues of this title, most of them
leave a lot to be desired in the way of doing justice to pictorial quality
of this fine 1953 release. I'm glad to report that there is at last a decent
copy available on DVD -- the 50th Anniversary Edition issued by Gateway
Films(their phone number is 610-584-3500). This version comes from the
original negative material and is by far the finest you will see of this
title -- However, the film does not survive in pristine form. It is in need
of a restoration. Until this happens (if it ever does), you will find this
issue to be quite fine, with a number of little "Extras" that give some
insight into present day sites of events in Martin Luther's life, an
interesting biography of how the film came to be made and the special way
that it was brought to theatres, as well as bios and photos of the actors
and production crew.
This films was nominated for two Oscars in 1953, picked by the New York
Times as one of the 10 best films of the year, and generally acclaimed by
most Christian groups (except the Catholic Church, of course, who considers
Martin Luther to be a heretic). I know the The Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints bought a number of 16 mm prints for use in their seminary
programs. The power of this film in depicting the reformation period helped
influence the LDS Church into starting its own motion picture department.
To me, Luther's story is an important key needed in preparing the way for the restoration of the restored gospel in these latter-days (which I believe happened when God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ appeared to the young Joseph Smith), for others it will have a different effect -- but the exciting thing about this film is that it tells its story accurately, with great fairness, and has power in performances, words and images. HIGHLY RECOMENDED!
The fact that this film is historically accurate is a given, but as any film, it is incomplete as to the entire life of Martin Luther. While it disregards his flawed later life, it properly focuses on the most important religious figure since the disciples and St. Paul. Specifically, Martin Luther did, as portrayed in this very good film, identify Roman Catholic theology and practices which had no Biblical foundation. And again, as accurate, the movie shows us that he did not intend to undermine or leave the Roman Catholic Church, but rather to bring it into a more Godly practice according to holy scripture. While other reviews on this site point out that the movie neglected the latter Luther life that ranted against Jews, the fact is that every holy Biblical person except Jesus himself was flawed as well -- From Moses down to David, Solomon, and later, Peter and Paul, so human flaws need not be the point when focusing on the man who changed major organized religion forever, partially by his own Biblical study and partially by the reaction of the Roman Catholic hierarchy, which is not unlike the politicized Jewish hierarchy of Jesus' time. The film also importantly includes the fact that Martin Luther thought it important for ordinary German Christians to understand the church rites and the Bible in their own language, which they could not understand in Latin. The Roman Catholic constructs of indulgences (the forgiveness of sins by monetary contributions to the church), the intercession of dead religious figures named saints by the Catholic church, the necessity for confession to a priest, and salvation through human endeavors and achievements alone, and finally the infallibility of the Pope, were all challenged by Luther and ultimately formed the foundation of a worldwide religious reformation, and the fact that this movie focuses on such importance, with brilliant acting, makes this a must-see picture.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Although totally financed by the Lutheran Church, this is no cheapjack production like similar church-sponsored Hollywood efforts. One of the world's greatest cinematographers, Joseph Brun, was engaged, as were two of Germany's finest art directors. No less a person than Louis de Rochemont, the founder of docu-drama and a leading (if not the leading) influence on Hollywood's film noir movies of the 1940s, was hired as supervising producer. Although the screenplay tends to over-concentrate on the vexed question of indulgences and to present its hero as a man with no flaws but a noirishly besetting over-concern for God's truth and the welfare of His people, the writers admirably attempt to shed some favorable light on Luther's adversaries as well. They even make the point that it was never Luther's intention to found an opposing church but to correct Leo X's papal abuses and thus reform the Holy Roman (i.e. the Catholic) Church. In fact, Protestantism is presented primarily as an attempt to check Leo's political and cultural ambitions. The question of Scripture as the foundation of faith is obviously not equally important in the movie's eyes, but a secondary consideration. (This is, of course, one way of avoiding the question, What is Scripture?, and noting the rather unpleasant but undeniable fact that unknown to Luther the Scriptural texts he based all his theology upon were somewhat corrupt).
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