The new historical movie Luther takes us to the history-making moment when the Catholic Church no longer had a monopoly on the Christian faith in Europe. As it said at the end of the movie, Martin Luther affected the politics, economics, as well as religion of the continent.
Joseph Fiennes pulls off an Oscar-calibre performance as Martin Luther. His portrail of the conflict within was outstanding. We see the tortured soul dealing with salvation, damnation, and temptation. His thrashing and yelling at the devil reminds me of Smegal in the second Lord of the Rings movie. Peter Ustinov played Luther’s benefactor, Prince Fredrick. He did a great job with great wit and a keen use of subtle facial features. The settings and costumes were gorgeous. The mud, dirt, and heavy clothing reminds you that this is set in the 16th Century
As a historical epic we do get to see what effect Luther’s ideas had on Germany. Peasants took his rejection of Roman authority to heart and revolted. Luther was appalled and asked the ruling princes to put down the revolt. The princes also used Luther’s Reformation as a means to oppose Charles, the Holy Roman Emperor. Roger Ebert does make a good point that there wasn’t enough description of the political background of the time. Attempts were made by characters like Pope Leo X to mention the Turks were threatening Vienna, but more could have been done.
Catholics probably won’t be too fond of this movie. Rome is called a “sewer” where priests sleep with prostitutes and commerce (in the form of indulgences) was more important than spirituality.
I’d love this movie to get some Oscar consideration. Fiennes and Ustinov shine; and Jonathan Firth, who plays Cardinal Aleandro, makes for a sly, cunning adversary. I wouldn’t go so far as to say Luther should get best-picture consideration. It’s too much of a morality play where all the characters are either good or bad. What Luther is is a story of man challenging the most powerful institution of his time and winning. As that, this is a fine movie.