Biopic of German priest Martin Luther (Niall MacGinnis), covering his life between 1505 and 1530 A.D., and the birth of the Protestant Reformation movement.Biopic of German priest Martin Luther (Niall MacGinnis), covering his life between 1505 and 1530 A.D., and the birth of the Protestant Reformation movement.Biopic of German priest Martin Luther (Niall MacGinnis), covering his life between 1505 and 1530 A.D., and the birth of the Protestant Reformation movement.
MARTIN LUTHER is a curious collaboration between three countries – the U.S., Germany (from where Martin Luther himself emanated) and the U.K.; in fact, while the director (and bit-part actor) Irving Pichel is an American, the lead here is played – superbly, I might add – by the Irish character actor Niall MacGinnis (perhaps best-known for his chilling portrayal of Karswell, the occult-practicing villain of Jacques Tourneur’s CURSE OF THE DEMON ). His thoughtful performance is very effective in illustrating the various facets of Luther’s personality: his initial inner conflicts, the laying-down of (and firm conviction in) his own beliefs, as well as the strength necessary for opposing the power of the Church (facing disrepute from both his peers and his congregation, not to mention an eventual excommunication). Furthermore, we’re also shown the build-up of support to his particular credo where it attracts people from all walks of life…and even lands him a wife!
The script does quite well in delineating the essential difference between the doctrine of the Catholic Church (in its most oppressive state, back when it was still a political force to be reckoned with) and Luther’s pragmatic but no less steadfast approach to religion: the latter favors a strict adherence to Scriptures in the face of the Church’s fire-and-brimstone teachings (resorting to the deception of ignorant parishioners by proposing the worship of worthless holy relics and the offer of money in order to obtain indulgences in the afterlife, or the callous bestowing of titles upon non-clerical albeit aristocratic subjects).
When I was in Hollywood in 2005, I had caught LUTHER (1974) on TV: directed by Guy Green from a stage rendition by John Osborne and featuring Stacy Keach in the title role, it’s been released on DVD by Kino as part of “The American Film Theater Collection”. While that version, too, was undeniably interesting and effective, the earlier cinematic i.e. less stagey treatment was perhaps the more satisfactory; by the way, there’s been an even more recent biopic of the famous religious figure starring Joseph Fiennes, which is readily available from my local DVD rental outlet.
- Mar 20, 2008