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Possibly one of the most insightful, fascinating, and profound movies to
come out in twenty years, "Luther" follows the turbulent struggle between
the Catholic church and the country of Germany in the 1500's, revolving
around the greatest religious liberator of the middle ages, Martin Luther.
Both historically correct in many respects, as well as a fantastically
well-written epic with an excessively well-rounded cast (all of which
deserve Oscar nominations), the film has many insightful glimpses into one
man's journey toward his greatest triumph... the translation of the
scriptures into "common" German. If you have any opportunity to view this
big-budget Independent film, take it.
From a purely historical standpoint, the film offers a shocking glimpse into power and politics, as Cardinals attempt to bend and wrestle princes and monarchs to their side. It's a shame, but this film will probably not be recognized at the Oscars due to its strong religious tone. Therefore allow it to be said that the center core of actors all deserve Oscars for their performances, particularly Fiennes, Firth, and Ustinov. It was a pleasure to see Fiennes conform to an astonishingly strong, charismatic man who is not faultless, but instead human. The costuming, visual effects, and writing are all fantastic. The dialogue is unusually rich, spattered with direct quotes from Luther's literary works.
The best thing about "Luther" is the quality of the filmmaking. A lot of money was poured into this production, leaving Christian films like Megiddo and Left Behind in the dust. Not only will this receive greater recognition as a "serious" movie, it will also attract larger audiences due to the quality, budget, massive locations, and cast list. Secular audiences will get an open story of salvation. Christian audiences will have the pleasure of finally having a hero to root for in the cinema, a man who stands up for his faith against all odds.
The title of Bryan Adams' song "Can't Stop This Thing We Started" aptly describes this 2003 retelling of the story of Martin Luther. The film basically depicts Luther as a good Catholic, loyal to the Pope but horrified by the scandals and corruption that plagued the 16th century Church. He is even more horrified when his effort to reform the Church gets out of control, is co-opted for political purposes, and becomes a popular revolution with the attendant carnage and bloodshed. I suspect Luther has been highly romanticized here. For one thing, the film follows him from age 34 to 50, yet (as embodied by the angelically handsome Joseph Fiennes) he never ages a day. His relationship with Katharina von Bora seems astonishingly chaste -- no struggle with the lusts of the flesh for this pious monk! His demons are of a different kind. We see scenes where Luther seems plagued by demons, thrashing about in his cell, hearing unseen voices. (I know Luther was manic-depressive, but I hardly think he was a madman.) The film provides a good summary or outline of the major events of Luther's life and times: the selling of indulgences, the Ninety-Five Theses nailed to the door of Wittenberg Church, the Diet of Worms (a council presided over by Emperor Charles V), the Confession of Augsburg. The costumes accurately reflect historical reality. If I have any quarrel with the film in this regard, it is that it does not adequately mirror a key factor in the struggle between Germany and Rome: the principle of "cuius regio, eius religio". In other words, local princes and kings imposed their own religious beliefs on the peoples they governed. The cast is a constellation of stars, veritable luminaries, including Sir Peter Ustinov in one of his last roles as Frederick of Saxony. The actors are uniformly excellent in their roles, and the dialogue is well written. The photography is somewhat static, leading me to believe this film was made with television in mind -- albeit of the highbrow kind, in the Masterpiece Theatre tradition. Still, if anyone asked me if I recommended "Luther", I would reply as he did at the Diet of Worms: "Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me."
Martin Luther is without a doubt one of the most important figures in
Western Civilization. His actions not only reformed Christianity, but also
shaped the direction in which Europe developed and opened the door for
additional reform and individual freedoms. "Luther" the movie does a fine
job at highlighting Luther's actions prior to and during the
"Luther" is a very rich movie to say the least. The costumes, scenery, music, acting, and characters all compliment the film nicely. Joseph Fiennes turns in a fine performance portraying Luther and making the audience both admire and feel pity for him throughout the film (the sticklers to realism just have to forgive the fact that Fiennes and Luther do not look very much alike). All the supporting roles were well done as well, especially Peter Ustinov as Prince Friedrich and Uwe Ochsenknecht (say that name three times fast!) as Pope Leo.
Personally as a Lutheran, I was very pleased to see the movie focus mainly on Luther's scriptural interpretations and 95 Theses rather than solely on the secular politics of the time. Thankfully, the creators of "Luther" do not tip-toe around including and expressing Christian messages as to "not offend" non-Christian viewers. If anything, all the direct references to the Bible and doctrine may win people over by showing just how much Martin Luther was a model of Christianity through his love of God and strict belief in only the scriptures (and not unjust rules of men). All that he used to battle the ridiculous man made ordinances and general corruption of the 16th century Catholic Church.
The only things I can really pick apart in "Luther" is the ending - I just wish the ending was slightly more rounded than it is, it seemed that things were sped up in the last 1/4 of the film and then it kind of ended abruptly. Nonetheless, the ending was still very emotional and made me want to stand up and applaud. I highly recommend this film to those wishing to learn more about Luther, the Reformation, or even just basic Christianity. But keep in mind, at times this film is violent. But the violence is used sparingly and only to drive home some important points in the film (such as Luther's despair over feeling responsible for so many gruesome deaths). All in all, this is a very emotional film which works on so many levels and it was a great pleasure to watch.
I just came from the St. Louis premier (in conjunction with the 14th
Theological Symposium at Concordia Seminary) and am very impressed with
film. Not only is it entertaining, but it follows the history of Luther's
early years of ministry quite faithfully. Sure, some things were
fictionalized to get us from one scene to another, but the facts of the
reformation movement, and the realities of life in the 16th century are
brought to great realism on the screen.
The performances of Fiennes, and Ustinov were particularly strong, but I think viewers will fall in love with Ustinov's portrayal of Prince Friedrich, the Wise. He's like the cuddly grandpa you always wished you had (or maybe you did have) who didn't care what people thought of them, said and did what they pleased, and no one gave them any crap for it. I truly think it is Oscar calibre work. I think you will too.
Firth as Aleandro was convincing as the Roman Bureaucrat determined to get ahead by keeping the peace between Leo and Charles. Ganz plays a great pastor to Luther - throughout his life - one that we should all be so lucky to have looking after our spiritual well being.
Hofschneider, as the eager to learn and willing to "suffer all for the Gospel" assistant (Ulrick) to Luther made it very easy for the viewer to feel a connection to him. His loyalty was genuine, and not self serving. A true man of the cloth.
Although not on screen long, Clair Cox does a nice job showing just how strong a woman Katie was. Is it any wonder that she went on to run a rather successful business apart from Martin's influence?
For sure this is a courageous movie about a stalwart leader of Church, state, and society to whom western civilization owes a great debt. While the 1950's version of Luther may be more complete in some respects, it is not nearly as accesable to today's viewers who are used to big budget, visually stimulating, and fast paced movies
Wow, here's an oddity: a modern-day film faithful to theological
history, an uncompromising biography of Martin Luther.
Knowing the film world, I doubt this film was made to glorify God. It probably was made more to make the Roman Catholic church look bad, or to glorify a rebel and a man of the people: "the peoples' liberation" as the back cover of the DVD states.
Whatever the motive, it stays true to history and it's nice to see that for a change. To those unfamiliar with Luther, he was the founder of the Protestant denomination. Luther was monk who saw and heard things he thought were unscriptural and broke off from the Catholic Church in "protest." Hence, the "Protestant" church was formed.
Anyway, not only was the story done well, so was the cinematography. This is one gorgeous movie to ogle, well-filmed with high production values. The scenery, sets and costumes are all first-rate.
Joseph Fiennes (Luther) is a bit wimpy-looking but his character certainly isn't. As the subject of indulgences and other practices begin to transform Luther's ideas of what Jesus' church should be, the story grows in intensity as Luther gets pressured by the Catholic hierarchy as his protest issues become public.
What happens to him and to the masses because of his actions are revealed in pretty dramatic form. Obviously the story is far more complex than two hours can give it but the filmmakers did a pretty good job condensing it to make the time constriction.
Notes: This was Peter Ustinov's last movie. On the DVD, being that is was a fairly expensive one, I am surprised there were no "extras." In all, however, a solid film but it will definitely offend Roman Catholics.
"Luther" tells the story of 16th century monk Martin Luther who waged a war of ecclesiastical principles with a corrupt Roman Catholic church and set the stage for what was to become Protestantism. Part biography, part history, and part drama, "Luther" does a better job of representing the fine points of Martin Luther's disagreements with Church dogma than it does fleshing out a realistic character or promoting a clear understanding of the social-political forces of the time which gave rise to the reformation movement. Many of the characters aren't clearly identified by title/station and some of the history is difficult to follow. There's little human story beyond the title character's struggle with conscience and corruption and two hours (the films approx run time) on the internet will provide more historical context and detail. Therefore, "Luther" will work better as a dramatic supplement to history while offering some sense of the man and the time in an entertaining as opposed to didactic format. (B-)
The life of the 16th-century German monk Martin Luther (1483-1546) was
filled with inner compulsions, focusing on his crucial years of his
crusade against the Catholic Church, leading to his break with the
Roman Catholic Church
Director Eric Till presents Rome as a shattered city where depravity was everywhere This infuriated Luther who could not believe that Rome is a circus describing it as 'a running sewer, where you can bye anything, sex, and salvation, and where they also have brothels for clerics.'
He also witnesses the church collecting coins from the people supposedly to free their sins to build Saint Peter's Church and would be therefore released from Purgatory and enter the Heaven
Luther was eventually branded a heretic, his books examined and burned, and anyone who presumes to infringe Pope Leo's excommunication will stand under the wrath of Almighty God and the Apostles Peter and Paul
The reaction of the peasants in Germany was against the reaction of the Inquisition who was burning his writings For the German people "you can't burn his ideas." For the Church, his works shall be erased from the memory of man!
Luther's criticism was not against his Holiness, Pope Leo X, but of those rogues who claim to represent him His goal was not to quarrel with the Pope or the Church but to defend them than mere opinion! The Gospel, as he affirmed, cannot be denied for the word of man!
As a loyal son of the Church, Luther finds sanctuary with Prince Frederick, who finds him too daring for him but decides not to surrender him to Rome Luther goes on to produce his first translation of the New Testament Bible into German language He marries the ex-nun, Katerina Von Borg, becomes a hero to the people and in spite of his outlaw status with the Church authorities, his followers ultimately break with Rome
Joseph Fiennes played intensely the intriguing story of a brilliant Augustinian monk with an independent mind who is not interested in comfort but in the truth!
Sir Peter Ustinovin his final rolerealizes the danger Luther poses to the Catholic Church
Alfred Molina as Brother John Tetzel, is the showman terrorizing the good people of Jüterbog into purchasing special indulgences letting everyone know the fires of hell awaiting those who did not contribute
Johann Von Staupitz is the spiritual counselor who knows that Martin has aptitude for law, and could be send to Rome for a legal brief
Claire Cox is Luther's beautiful wife who stood behind her young 16th century monk driven by courage and outrage against a powerful Medieval Church
The beauty of Luther is its drama and its casting. Joseph Fiennes did
he does best as the angst-riddled Luther, playing a complex and haunted
character that filled the screen even in his quietest moments. The
supporting cast was also fabulous, particularly the
performances by Bruno Ganz and Peter Ustinov.
What's troubling, then, about Luther is that the movie just isn't long enough to portray the story accurately, and therefore it feels not only unfinished but full of gaps. Things happen one against another, people come and go with little explanation, and yet the story marches on. Luther's mission is clear, but his purposes are so boiled down that only a few of his famous Theses are actually voiced in the movie. Shortening the story was obviously necessary for a movie, but in all, I think it acts against the dramatic effect of the film as a whole because things end up with a certain disjointed feel.
Still, the cinematography is brilliant and the acting nearly perfect. The film is worth seeing for its visual splendor (in both performance and sets) alone, and certainly as an introduction to a complex historical topic.
The film is a biopic concerning the Agustinian monk (1483-1546) Martin
Luther (Joseph Fiennes) . His life and the famous deeds from how was
orchestrated the Protestant Reform are the following : He becomes a
good priest and is going to Rome . There he buys indulgences for his
grandfather , but he sees the reality , a corrupt Rome with the selling
the indulgences to finance the basilica of San Pedro built by Leo X and
previously begun by Clemente VII and Julio II . He returns to Germany
where his preceptor (Bruno Ganz) sends him to Wittemberg to doctorate
himself in theology studies . There preaches John Tetzel (Alfred
Molina), a dreadful inquisitor . But his point of view about the
Catholic church has changed and he rebels and nails himself the 95
Thesis on the door of the church . The Castle Church in Wittenberg,
Germany, in the Holy Roman Empire, where the Ninety-Five Theses
famously appeared . Luther's Theses argued that the sale of indulgences
was a gross violation of the original intention of confession and
penance, and that Christians were being falsely told that they could
find absolution through the purchase of indulgences . He rejected the
Pope authority , the Saints cult , the celibacy and to practice mass .
Luther along with Melanchton (Rudolph) starts the Protestant Reform .
The printing press has been recently invented by Guttemberg and the
Luther's ideas are quickly printed and spread everywhere as the written
books titled ¨The captivity of Babilony¨, ¨The freedom of Christians¨
and ¨ The confession of Ausburg (1530)¨. Pope Leo X (Uwe Ochsenknecht)
threats to Luther on ex-communion but he refuses to recant . He finally
gets the ex-communion by Bulla ¨Exsurge Domine¨ but he burns it in the
public square of Wittemberg . He is appointed in Worms (1521) with the
presence of the emperor Charles V (Liebrech) but he doesn't regret .
Prince Frederick of Xaxony (Peter Ustinov) keeps him in his castle of
Wartburgo . There Martin translates the Bible into German language for
ordinary people understand the New Testament . The common people
follows the Martin's lectures and accuse to Catholic Church of their
penury , burning churches and palaces . Meanwhile , Luther meets an
ex-nun named Katherina Von Bora (Claire Cox) and marries her . The
emperor summons all the German princes for confronting the Luthero's
doctrine . The princes encourage and facing off emperor , they stand up
against Charles V . The Luther's thesis have won in spite of the
princes were defeated in Mulberg (1547) and they signed the treatise of
In the film appears famous historic characters who are well performed by a sensational plethora of British and German actors as Ralph Fiennes (Shakespeare in love) , Bruno Ganz (Hitler in The Downfall), Alfred Molina (Diego Rivera in Frida) and in his last film , Peter Ustinov (recently deceased , he was the immortal Nero in Quo Vadis) . The motion picture gets a colorful cinematography by Robert Frasse , an atmospheric , evocative musical score by Richad Harvey and is rightly directed by Eric Till . Devotees of the history will love this movie which is a fine tribute to Martin Luther .
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I'm surprised that this did not get an Oscar nomination, much less an Oscar nod. It's an incredible film about a man who stands up for what is right against authority. Peter Ustinov gives a stunning performance in what may be his last film (may his soul rest in peace). The "Here I stand" scene is priceless as well as the ending scene with Luther talking to a group of children about the story of the Prodigal Son.
Critics didn't give this movie any really good reviews and I am truly surprised. It's brilliant and Joseph Fiennes deserved a nomination by the Academy as his performance as the (possibly) greatest religious reformer of all time, Martin Luther.
However, the film does not address the fact that Luther was hostile to Jews in his day. Still it's great film making and great acting.
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