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Luther biography based on true events about the reformer monk
ma-cortes21 November 2006
The film is a biopic concerning the Agustinian monk (1483-1546) Martin Luther (Joseph Fiennes) and mostly set in Germany , during the Holy Roman Empire. Luther attempts to reconcile his desire for sanctification with his sour denounce against corruption and hypocrisy pervading the Church's hierarchy . His life and the famous deeds from how was orchestrated the Protestant Reform are the following ones : Martin becomes a good priest and he goes 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 Saint Pedro built by Leo X and previously begun by Clemente VII and Julius II . He returns 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 Catholicism has changed and he rebels and nails himself the 95 Thesis on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany . 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) threatens Luther on ex-communion , but he refuses to recant . He ultimately gets the ex-communion by Bulla ¨Exsurge Domine¨ , but he burns it in the public square of Wittemberg , where the Ninety-Five Theses famously appeared . 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 protected in his castle of Wartburgo . There Martin translates the Bible into German language for ordinary people to understand the New Testament . The common people follow the Martin's lectures and accuse to Catholic Church of their penury , burning churches and palaces . Luther is finally charged as a heretic priest and has to face off the ruling Cardinals and some Catholic Princes, urging them to make the Scriptures available to the common believer and lead the Church toward faith through justice and righteousness . 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 contend the great emperor of the Holy Roman-German Empire , as 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 Ausburg .

In the film appears famous historical characters who are well performed by a sensational plethora of British and German actors such 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 , as well as an atmospheric , evocative musical score by Richard Harvey and being alrightly directed by Eric Till . Devotees of the history will love this movie which is a fine tribute to Martin Luther .
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Incredible experience
KatharineFanatic2 October 2003
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.
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Surprisingly Faithful Account
ccthemovieman-113 January 2006
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.
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Can't stop this thing we started
livewire-624 October 2004
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."
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The passion account of a theologian who stood against The Vatican and the Inquisition 450 years ago
Nazi_Fighter_David29 December 2007
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 Ustinov—in his final role—realizes 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
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Mediocre historical biopic
=G=5 December 2004
"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-)
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Wonderful film
Shannon-3211 April 2004
Warning: 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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Great Emotional Film - One of This Year's Best!
solar_son30 October 2003
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 Reformation.

"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.
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An Oscar for Sir Ustinov (Feinnes too)
pts200023 September 2003
I just came from the St. Louis premier (in conjunction with the 14th annual Theological Symposium at Concordia Seminary) and am very impressed with the 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
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Beautifully done, yet still a bit sparse
jennkepka30 September 2003
The beauty of Luther is its drama and its casting. Joseph Fiennes did what 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 merry-in-the-face-of-danger 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.
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Martin Luther (not the Idris Elba Luther)
paul-nemecek5 July 2018
In Roger Ebert's review of Luther he criticizes the filmmakers for showing Martin Luther as being a bit neurotic. Ebert writes "I doubt if he was much like the uncertain, tremulous figure in Luther who confesses, 'Most days, I'm so depressed I can't even get out of bed'." A contrasting view is offered by Steven D. Greydanus. In an article written for the National Catholic Register, Greydanus criticizes the film for making Luther too inspiring and for not taking "a more critical warts-and-all look at its hero."

I am somewhat sympathetic to both criticisms. Ebert is right that Luther is depicted as a deeply troubled man, but I am convinced that there are two categories of people in the world, those who are troubled and those who aren't paying attention. It is perhaps this aspect of Luther's life that made him an interesting case for psychologist Erik Erikson (Young Man Luther). On the other hand Greydanus is right that some of Luther's "warts" (anti-Semitism for example) seem to have been surgically removed.

Movies like this will always generate ideological debates about the film's departure from "true" history. Picasso once said "art is a lie which makes us realize the truth. If we grant that there are inevitable omissions, distortions, and unwarranted emphases we can move on to the more important question of truths to be realized. With that as my emphasis I can heartily recommend Luther as an inspiring story of faith, courage, and prophetic critique. By not focusing exclusively on Luther's personality, director Eric Till also makes it an engaging account of corruption, cooptation, and political struggle.

Eric Till's previous directing credits include The Muppet Christmas and Bonhoeffer: Agent of Grace, a diverse filmography to be sure. There are flaws in the story line and several critics have rightly criticized the story for including Luther's marriage as a "happily ever after" footnote. In spite of these flaws there are some real strengths here in the writing and direction. Joseph Fiennes does an excellent job as Martin Luther, and Sir Peter Ustinov is perfectly cast as Frederick the Wise.

The central point of the film is that the church is in danger of losing its way when it becomes too accommodating to the "powers that be". Martin Luther, like his namesake Martin Luther King, was an important prophetic voice who called us to critical awareness of the principalities and powers and how they shape our world. If the film did nothing more than cause us to reflect more thoughtfully on this, it would be worth the journey.

This is admittedly a film with flaws. But if you are up for an engaging film with a little more substance than one of the cloned sequels dominating the theaters of late, two hours with Martin Luther would be time well spent.
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A Masterpiece of Historical Presentation
Doodles2328 September 2003
It is unfortunate that this film has such limited distribution as it to become one of the shining stars of historical dramas. Here in Miami it is only showing in 3 theaters. On opening day at 4:10 in the afternoon there were less than 10 people in the theater! Its attention to historical accuracy is commendable. The acting by Fiennes and Ustinov could not be improved in my view. I was swept away with drama and emotion of the portrayal of Luther at this time of crisis in Christianity. Interestingly the pivotal moment of the nailing of the 95 thesis to the door of the church in Wittenburg is regarded as fictional by most careful scholars of Luther! But the legend is so ingrained that I am glad it was presented. If you have any interest in the foundations of the schism with Catholicism you must see this film.
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good biopic
SnoopyStyle8 December 2015
Martin Luther (Joseph Fiennes) is a doubting monk in 1507 Erfurt. He is angered by indulgences after a 2 week trip to Rome. He is sent to Wittenberg to study. He starts preaching against profiting from fake relics and the selling of indulgences. The church is raising funds to build St. Peter's Basilica. Father John Tetzel (Alfred Molina) is a traveling monk selling the new indulgences. Luther's frustration boils over and he nails "The Ninety-Five Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences" on the doors of his church. It's the start of the Protestant Reformation as his declaration puts him at odds with powerful forces, most importantly the Pope.

I am not a theologian or a history expert. I don't know how much of the real story is retained and how much is simplified. I also take no sides in the battle. I feel for any Catholic who takes offense to the portrayal of the papacy. All of that is beyond the scope of this review. Joseph Fiennes is great with a few moments of overwrought acting. As a movie, it's compelling for the most part. The ending does lack a certain excitement. It ends at a perfectly good spot. The problem is that nailing the Theses is such a climax. The rest of the movie isn't quite as iconic.
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God's Word Is For All
bkoganbing22 January 2008
Exactly fifty years earlier Martin Luther got himself an autobiographical film that starred Niall McGinniss and got great critical acclaim. With better production values, color, and an impeccably cast group of players this story of the founder of one of the sects of Protestantism is destined to be a classic.

In the review I did of the earlier film I noted that Martin Luther was one of many founders of Protestantism. His Lutheran church became the majority faith of northern Germany, the low countries and of Scandinavia. Other folks like John Calvin in Switzerland, John Knox in Scotland, and even Henry VIII in England all can claim some credit for the Protestant Reformation.

I think Luther's legacy in the political sphere may be a bit more unassailable. That other German, Johannes Von Guttenberg, may have invented the printing press and used to print a Bible, but Luther had the Bible translated in his native tongue of German. That book was a declaration of political as well as spiritual independence from Rome.

As the previous film had to observe the Code, this version of Luther took us into young Martin's spiritual journey and what might have repelled him from the Catholic faith when he first went to Rome to study. The Papacy was at its lowest ebb at that time, it was a prize to be bargained for among the rich Italian families like the Borgias and the Medicis. Salvation was for sale, a contribution to the church could buy your way to a good afterlife. My favorite scene in the film is the young priest Luther in a sermon talking about all the relatives he bought or is planning to buy from the devil in hell.

Luther also disdained the idea of a celibate clergy. In that one he certainly was ahead of his times. My own feeling is that part of the reason the Catholic Church today insists on the celibate priesthood is that they don't want to appear to be giving into one of Luther's main tenets.

Joseph Fiennes makes a passionate Luther, a man willing to risk all for the sake of his new found faith. Which is an unshakable belief that faith alone insures salvation, that no human intercession by priest or Pope is necessary and that it follows that the Word of God is not something spoon fed to people by a clergy reading it from an ancient language that they alone know.

Luther was not the first religious reformer, but what kept him from being burned at the stake like others was the protection of the Duke of Saxony played here by Peter Ustinov. Luther turned out to be Ustinov's final theatrical film. Playing the cultured and politically attuned Duke, Ustinov goes out with one of his best big screen performances.

The less attractive aspects of Luther's character are left out of the film, his misogyny, his sexism, his raging anti-Semitism. As he got older, Luther suffered from a variety of health issues that made him a nasty tempered fellow. His later writings certainly reflect that.

Our film ends with the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V having to deal with a whole gang of new Protestant states in the German portion of his realm in 1530. This was due to Luther and as I said before, Luther's legacy may be more political than spiritual.

Luther is not only good entertainment, it's very good history and that's an unbeatable combination.
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jotix10014 December 2010
Warning: Spoilers
The life of Martin Luther, examined in this film, presents a man that started out his life by being a devout catholic. He even became an Agustinian monk, following his desire to be a better man. His faith was tested as he went to Rome. There, Martin experienced a world in which there was corruption and the men that called themselves followers of the doctrine, did not hesitate to break the precepts that were the basis of their religion. That experience, set Luther on the road that led to his eventual break with the church which he vowed to serve.

In attending the university, Luther became aware of other way of thinking. Having seen first hand the way Rome conducted business, as the ambitious Pope Leo X, the ruler of the church wanted to build, what would later become, St. Peter's basilica, as a monument to his reign, to be financed by the selling of special indulgences, a sort of panacea that would benefit the ones buying them.

Luther's rebellion came about when he started questioning things that up to that point, no one had dared to ask. Thus, he was deemed a heretic because he wanted to simplify things and worst of all, he decided to translate from the Greek the sacred scriptures that up to that time was only the domain of an inner group of Roman higher ups.

"Luther" is not a great film. It plays like a documentary by stating highlights in the life of Martin Luther. The film, directed by Eric Till, and written by Bart Gavigan and Camille Thomasson, is based loosely on the play by John Osborne. Of course, this is a re-imagination of a piece of history. How accurate it is, we have no idea. This is the kind of international co-production where the cast includes the basic English actors in the main roles, but there are different accents, depending on the nationality of the actor.

Joseph Fiennes in the title role shows an inspired Luther. Others in the large cast include the excellent Bruno Ganz, Alfred Molina, Sir Peter Ustinov making his last appearance in a theatrical movie, and others. The film was splendidly photographed by Robert Fraisse, whose camera takes us to some breathtaking locales that span from Germany, to the Czech Republic and Italy. Our only objection was the Richard Harvey music score that has a way to interfere with the action.
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Very good historical drama
Ken K.27 September 2003
A very good historical drama about Martin Luther's fight against the corruption of the Catholic Church. It opens the door for people of other religions and denominations to learn the details of what Luther was rebelling against. It also shows how original truth and ideals can be co-opted by others for their own power and glorification. Excellent acting, especially by Joseph Fiennes, good on-location photography, excellent costumes and fine direction. But only one problem: why does it seem like the whole movie is dubbed? The sound was so poor and dubbed that it really detracted from the experience. And the Regal theatre that showed it had the lights on during the movie. Do these projectionists ever check the theatres?
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Viewers who liked this 2003 ought to move up to the 1976 film
Mentor-28 November 2003
"Luther" (2003) pleasantly surprised this Catholic for being as accurate as it was.

In the credits, I noticed with pleasure that the film makers consulted famed Lutheran theologian Martin Marty, who is greatly respected by Catholic theologians, as well as a Jesuit whose full name I did not catch. Perhaps they influenced the script writers to ditch references to the false dichotomy of "faith versus works" which sidetracked a fruitful Lutheran-Catholic dialogue for centuries.

No doubt because of its funding (by some investment group "for Lutherans"), this film came across as a reverential cartoon-brought-to-life, suitable for a Lutheran Sunday school. Joseph Fiennes handsomely portrayed Luther as a comic-book hero. The film wisely avoided the last 16 years of Luther's life. While the early Luther needed to tell people he was not a saint, few would have mistaken the later Luther for one. (See the transcripts of Luther's table talk.)

There is nothing wrong with telling a story in terms children can understand. I assume that was why the film makers added the cloyingly sentimental poor woman and her crippled girl.

However, the real Luther was far more complex and far more interesting than portrayed in this film. Advanced children, and adults interested in a college-level approach, should move up to something more accurate and challenging: the 1976 film version of John Osborne's award-winning play "Luther," starring Stacey Keach. Osborne's play, and this film, are definitely not for children. If you can't find the film, at least read the text of the play, which has been published.
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As Film Enterainment YES. As a biography LIGHT.
jaybob18 December 2008
Warning: Spoilers
This movie was produced by a LUTHERAN INSURANCE Company, I did not take this very well acted & well made Biography as being overly factual.

It is excellent entertainment & will eventually be a staple item on the Biography Cable Television Channel.

This was filmed in parts of Germany where these events probably took place, directed by Eric Till from a screenplay by Camille Thomasson & Bart Gavigan.

The cast stars Joseph Fiennes as Luther with Alfred Molina as Tetzel & in his last movie Peter Ustinov,(He left us a few months after the film was made). The entire cast was very good, The film is in English,

I wonder if it would have been better if they all spoke German.

Hardly any biographies are overly accurate. There was a film in 1973 same title, with Stacy Keach as Luther & it was written by John Osborne a noted play-writer. From what I remember it was very DULL & even more DULL.

This film is energetic & alive & not the least bit dull. As I said it is Biography Light.,.

It did have short run in the US in 2003 & played in about 400 theatres.

See this film as entertainment & not history, thats what I did & I liked it very much.

Ratings ***1/2 (out of 4) 95 points (out of 100) IMDb 9 (out of 10) **

Note: If you take this as religious history the ratings would be lower.
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Amazing FIlm
PatrynXX10 December 2004
I'm amazed I didn't see much of this film in around here. I saw the trailer a year ago and then it disappear. Probably The Passion's fault. And while The Passion may be turning converts, it turned me away from the film. Disgusting film. However this film Is much better as far as taste goes. The acting is superb, I've been thinking Joseph is so much better than Ralph. (where is Ralph nowadays?) Sure some of the movie seems like a TV movie. And I'm disappointed the film isn't in German, (it looks like it was copyrighted in Germany though) why the English? And there's some possibilities that arn't quite logical. And in one of the very quaint interviews, they admit this. At least the cast does. But overlooking those faults, it's an emotional film. Haven't seen such a powerful film in a long time. And of late it's been rather short. I consider myself Wisconsin Lutheran (WELS) unfortunately for me, I've been stuck in Iowa for the past 4 yrs. So unless I bumped into an ELS 4 -5 miles away. I haven't been to church since. I have been considering on looking up a Missouri Synod church. I was Confirmed in one.

The DVD could have been better though, and I have a suspicion that there's some scene's lying on the cutting room floor somewhere.


Quality: 9/10 Entertainment: 10/10 Replayable: 10/10
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Then, Now
tedg8 December 2005
Here's an interesting film. It seems competently enough made. And I suppose the history isn't distorted much more than most events in schoolbooks. We like our stories after all.

But historical films have an obligation, don't they?

Honest histories have Luther as an antisemite, a vulgar drunk, mentally unstable and a violent revolutionary. All this in addition to being a sort of Thomas Jefferson of his day, insightful and articulate.

In this version his nuttiness is a sort of mystical obsession. His complicity in 100,000 deaths is avoided by showing him as ignorant of the events because he was "busy"elsewhere and remote.

Here's the interesting thing about this movie: The story is about the church manipulating truth for their own ends and selling "documents." The medium of the day has changed and now we have a church-sponsored movie similarly manipulating truth for its own ends.

I'm sure they would use the same excuse the Vatican did (and still does).

Films should make you think or react in some way. This one may make you think. The shift here was that Luther was the one that reintroduced the Bible to Christianity, though to that time it was considered unimportant.

If one good performance is enough for you, there's one here in Peter Ustinov.

Ted's Evaluation -- 1 of 3: You can find something better to do with this part of your life.
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Best film I've seen this year!
rodms_wa29 September 2003
Being a fan of history (the stories and motivations, not the dry dates and events) I found Luther fascinating. The acting and production values were first class. Joseph Fiennes' portrail of Luther was so filled with his humanity, it brought a tear to my eyes on more than one occasion. I would of gladly spend another hour had they included more of the actual history. I knew little about the history of Martin Luther and this film served to stoke my curiosity to do more research. Do yourself a favor, SEE THIS MOVIE!
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Flawed but respectable history lesson
backseat-230 September 2003
Writing about "Luther' as a somewhat lapsed Lutheran, I want to avoid generating yet another "Oscars all around" review. However, I went in to this film with a lot of will they portray the life and pivotal issues of this important historical figure so that non-Lutherans will understand and appreciate it?

I have to report that, while they tried to jam way too much detail into the two hours for the film's own good, it was a noble effort and the result is, well, respectable. I imagine that many folks who are not already predisposed to like the movie (read: Lutherans and other Protestants) might actually be fascinated and end up liking the movie. Luther, the man, was in fact a major scholar of the time, and did some very important historic things that are usually overlooked these days. We forget, or never realized, just how many things in the Western world were turned on their heads because of him.

The acting of the lead characters is first rate, in that they all had delicate roles to play, and pulled it off very well. Most of the secondary characters are played by German actors, and most of those apparently spoke either German or poorly delivered English, because their parts are very clearly dubbed with all the finesse of the laughable lip-sync of Hong Kong action films.

Still, the film is nicely done otherwise, and it does not drag, and it does an excellent job of explaining the key issues.
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Great story well played, and still relevant today!
xavrush894 December 2003
I remember learning of Martin Luther's writing of The Ninety-Five Theses back in Catholic school, and this film vividly brings the story to life. What better time for this film to have come out than when the church is again embroiled in corruption (abuse scandals) and vilifying the innocent (gay people). It is also a testament to the importance of separation of church and state. But the best part about this film is that it can appeal to anyone, religious or non-religious, conservative or liberal. If you like movies with an underdog for whom you can root, there's that aspect too. This is normally not my kind of movie, so I'm giving it especially high marks. Joseph Fiennes should get an Oscar nomination. And Peter Ustinov is in as fine a form as ever, he makes the film. It is also worth mentioning that the director was SEVENTY years old when he began the four year process of making this film. Forget young, hot, directors of the moment. We need more experienced, skilled directors like this! 9/10 (1 pt. deducted for a brief indulgence--pardon the pun!--of hokey sentimentality.)
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An important story, and not just for Lutherans
vlevensonnd-872483 March 2019
I am very pleased with the fact that Christian movies have been on the rise again, especially when they are well executed, as I believe this one was. The acting was superb and I appreciated the variety of characters. I would definitely recommend this Film to others. I definitely enjoyed it enough to purchase it!
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good but flawed
paduken24 June 2005
My mixed feelings about this film are parallel to my feelings about Luther himself.

As a Protestant Christian, I am grateful for the courage of this man and the enlivening impact he had on Christian history. He challenged not only some corrupt church practices but the very authority of the church over life and thought. He emphasized personal faith and integrity over ritual and blind loyalty. His translation of the Bible helped empower Christians to come to their own conclusions. The example he set by getting married surely was a liberating force for those who wondered if they could be devoted to God and also experience the love of family. These elements were treated quite well in the film, and can be appreciated by Christians of whatever stripe.

The film also contains hints of a darker side of Luther and what he helped unleash. Battling demons was just one aspect of his personal life. His role in first inspiring the Peasants' Revolt and then supporting the merciless suppression of it - the film tones it down into a kind of inner regret and sorrow, not fully displaying the harshness with which he tended to speak of people once he decided they were his enemies. The film does a decent job of showing that the line between religious and political conflict can be very fuzzy. The German nationalism that factored into the princes' resistance to Rome was evident.

I was disappointed that the film chose to completely ignore the most negative side of Luther's legacy: his seething contempt for Jews and his recommendations for dealing with them. In this, he was very much a product of his times - he certainly didn't invent anti-semitism. But the very fact that Luther was so influential probably amplified the effect of his words on the matter. He was also not at his best when he helped persecute some of the smaller and more radical protestant movements. History seems to show that once Luther gained more power and influence, he grew more sure of himself, more combative and power-oriented, and more hateful toward his enemies.

In this, he can be seen as very human, instead of either angelic or demonic. In ignoring this side of Luther's imperfect self, the film seems to me flawed, as the man himself was. Perhaps the film-makers will have the courage to create a sequel that balances the view a bit more.
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