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Luther: A Review

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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.

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About Sean Hackbarth

  • andy

    My entire church doctrine springs from what Luther did and taught. I hope this movie stays true to the spirit of the Reformation.

  • I think it does. It’s not theologically heavy, but I didn’t notice any problems.

  • The Theory

    that period of time is so facinating.

  • The period is as much a time of change as the 18th Century is in Neal Stephenson’s Quicksilver. Local authorities were opposing far away institutions. Peasants had enough of their chains. The printing press allowed ideas to spread quickly. Amazing times indeed.

  • I’m not sure that Roman Catholics should be offended by this movie. While the church did not respond well to Luther at the time, excommunicating him, they did eventually adopt nearly every one of his suggested reforms. It is a point of argument whether the Jesuit reformation would have ever happened if Luther’s hadn’t first, but…

    Well, I’m getting off track, but the point is that it is historical, not current. Well-made movies about dark episodes of America’s past are generally popular with Americans, and I see no reason why this movie wouldn’t be popular with Roman Catholics.

    Just think of it as a reminder, and consider “how far we’ve come.”

    Er, not that I’m a Roman Catholic, but I’m just saying…