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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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Stunning and Heroic!!
moffcom24 October 2003
I was expecting a Christian movie with a tight budget,and a goofy script...Not so!! This movie brought back memories of Chariots of Fire and Braveheart in its dipiction of courage and the conviction of Martin Luther. The script was excellent as well as the filming,music and editing. All of the characters were so believable that I felt that I was there among them. During most of the movie, you could have heard a pin drop it the theatre as well all felt the wide range of emotions. This is not a Catholic bashing movie, but rather and expose of the elitist powerbase of not only the early european church but the government of many of the countries in the 14-1500's. Even if you know nothing of church history or Christianity, you owe it to yourself to experience this won't be dissappointed.
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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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Hands down, this is the best treatment of a "saint" ever.
MommyoAndretti9 August 2005
Just saw this and was totally impressed.

This is the first film I've ever seen on a "saint" who didn't act like Superman.

Joseph Finnes gives us a real human being caught up in something much larger than himself. He shows fear and trembling at every turn.

Forget Charleton Heston leading the troops out of Egypt with fire in his eyes. Luther is as scared as you or I would be. He is a man backed into a corner, forced to take a stand and face death, or relent and face God. Not a fun choice to have to make. But a very realistic treatment.
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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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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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One of the better movies that i watched in the religion class
RhythmMakoto10 April 2020
I like it, its a really good movie that gives us a new perspective abozt the reformation. Nice movie for religion class. cheers
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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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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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An Honorable Attempt at a Major Luther Biopic
nicoledesapio19 February 2017
In retrospect, it is hard to believe that it took until 2003 for a movie about Martin Luther (1483-1546) and the Lutheran Reformation to reach the big screens. Made through the cooperation of the Lutheran and the Catholic Churches, Eric Till's LUTHER begins with Luther's days as a young, novice Catholic monk and ends just as the Lutheran Church itself is being formed. The movie is gorgeous to look at: the settings are beautiful (yet not improbably "clean"), the costumes even more so. Richard Harvey's musical score, as exquisitely crafted as a medieval tapestry, is surely one of the greatest movie scores composed within the last fifteen years. Its main themes stay in the memory long after the screen has gone dark.

It is easy to see why Joseph Fiennes, then fresh from Shakespeare IN LOVE, was cast as Martin Luther: thin and fair, even pale, he looks like nineteenth-century depictions of the young Luther by such artists as James Tissot, and not unlike the few from-life portraits of him. Fiennes' long face, with wide hazel eyes that can burn with fear, anger, or compassion, is always "readable," a perfect reflector of emotion. He is great at conveying the young monk's sincere piety, extreme anxiety about Hell, and barely controlled rage at the Church corruption he sees. His scenes with his sympathetic confessor (Bruno Ganz) and his scene before the intimidating Cardinal Cajetan (Mathieu Carriere) are particularly poignant and riveting, as are the scenes in which he visits Rome and sees its corruption firsthand.

Though Luther's disillusionment with the Catholic Church is clear in Fiennes' portrayal, the staunch Catholics in LUTHER are not cardboard villains. The kind-faced Alfred Molina, for example, makes indulgence seller Johan Tetzel oddly easy to relate to; you feel that his intentions are pure. Jonathan Firth (younger brother of Colin, just as Joseph Fiennes is the younger brother of Ralph) is an elegant Giralomo Aleander, the Vatican official who oversees Luther's trial. Sir Peter Ustinov (himself a Lutheran), who died just months after LUTHER premiered, is a joy to watch as Prince Frederick the Wise, Luther's supporter. Other delights include the German actor Torben Liebrecht, who looks uncannily like the youthful portraits of the Holy Roman Emperor he portrays; a "cameo appearance" by Louis Cranach, the Renaissance artist who painted Luther's portrait; and a period song with which Claire Cox, who makes the most of her brief scenes as Luther's strong-willed wife, serenades her fiancé.

The movie's one drawback is its less-than-perfect screenplay. The "riot" scenes that follow Luther's trial (the smashing of the icons, the Peasants' Revolt) are telescoped, melodramatic, and simply less interesting than are the "theological" scenes. Moreover, the screenplay seems to assume a certain level of prior audience familiarity with both medieval theology and Reformation history; it would be good, then, to know something about both before watching LUTHER. But theology is a hard topic to make entertaining for the masses, and in LUTHER the attempt was very nearly a complete success.
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A Great and Educationsl Film
gods_outlaw4313 August 2013
A Great Educational film from start to finish, discovering that faith in Christ Jesus alone saves and not by any works we do, tho we do good works not to merit salvation, but in appreciation of Christ's finished work on Mt. Calvary, and the persecution we endure for steadfast faith in Gods divine word, I pray God will give us the courage to stand without compromise in his divine will like Luther, Tyndale and a host of others did in centuries past, 'For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.'Ephesians 2:8,9 (Authorized (King James) Version)
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Love this film
bonniesherwood8 September 2012
Found this on sale several years back and decided to give it a try. Best blind movie purchase I've ever made.

The movie keeps you entertained throughout. Through my own personal study of Luther I did notice a couple of historical inaccuracies but they are so minor they, in my opinion, do not take anything away from the film.

My husband and I greatly enjoy this film and have watched it many times. Watch this film. Better yet, purchase this film. If you are a lover of history, religion/theology, or just good cinema I do not think you will be disappointed.
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