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Joseph J. Clark
This biographical account of Martin Luther's actions that eventually created the Lutheran and Protestant denominations was filmed in conjunction with the Lutheran Church. Niall MacGinnis portrays the friar whose nailing of the ninety-five Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg created such a stir that it shook the foundations of the medieval Church. This movie shows the struggle between Luther and Rome, and how the medieval Church did not fully explain things he questioned, which led to him to be labelled a heretic.
In 1517 a young monk nailed a long paper to the door of Wittenberg's Cathedral containing 95 thesis - they were 95 different questions that the current Roman Catholic Church failed to settle in it's accounting of the Christian faith. When Martin Luther did his act he started more than a personal dilemma of the might of the Church (and much of the state) against one lone monk, but he also shook that mighty Church and created the greatest schism it faced in five hundred years (the last one being the split with the Eastern/Greek Orthodox Church about 1050 A.D.). Luther never envisioned his questions would lead to the Protestant Reformation, but once it got beyond the initial query of the 95 thesis - when he was faced with either knuckling under or facing death by burning as a heretic - Luther proved himself the man to continue leading his reformation.
He was not a flawless figure. He was self-centered, and resented rival "heretics" (Zwingly, John of Munster, Calvin), and he would become really vicious towards the Jews for failing to follow his leadership into "true Christianity". In fact his diatribes against the Jews would become the true foundation of modern German anti-Semitism. But he remains the founder of Protestantism.
His flaws do not appear in this film, which was made by the Lutheran Church.
However the film is a pretty faithful account of his conflict with the organized Church, and how it led to the creation of Protestantism (and, in particular, Lutheranism). It gave Niall MacGinnis the best straight dramatic lead role in his career (the closest second is his Karswell, the villain in NIGHT OF THE DEMON). MacGinnis always was a superior supporting actor in small parts, so it is worth noting that when he was given an important part like Luther he did the part well.
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