Luther (2003)
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Joseph Fiennes (Shakespeare in Love) stars as Martin Luther, the brilliant man of God whose defiant actions changed the world, in this epic, ravishingly beautiful (The New York Times)film that traces Luther's extraordinary and exhilarating quest for the people's liberation. Regional princes and the powerful Church wield a fast, firm and merciless grip on 16th-century Germany. But when Martin Luther issues a shocking challenge to their authority, the people declare him their new leaderand hero. Even when threatened with violent death, Luther refuses to back down, sparkinga bloody revolution that shakes the entire continent to its core.

Like The Passion of the Christ, Luther is the story of a spiritual leader, German monk Martin Luther (Joseph Fiennes), in opposition to the religious orthodoxy of the time (in his case, the 1500s). His goal--to bring God to the people and to take money, fear, and shame out of the equation--made him a reformer to some, a heretic to others. Released around the same time as Mel Gibson's blockbuster, it failed to attract the same degree of attention--or controversy. Granted, it's a different film, but not radically so. Directed by Eric Till (Bonhoeffer: Agent of Grace), Luther isn't always easy to follow or as emotionally involving as it could be. That said, it's a fascinating story and Fiennes receives solid support from Alfred Molina (Frida), Bruno Ganz (Wings of Desire), and the late Sir Peter Ustinov (Spartacus), in his final film role, as Frederick the Wise. --Kathleen C. Fennessy

Customer Reviews:

  • Excellent historical eye-opener
    The movie "Luther" with Joseph Fiennes, is a fabulous portrayal of the Roman Catholic Church in the 1500's when Martin Luther became confused over it's doctrine and rebelled as a monk, which started the Protestant Reformation. It is very well done and a historical perspective for those interested in the growth of Christianity after the death of Christ and the Apostles. It should be seen by anyone who is trying to follow Christianity....more info
  • Who is this guy? Not the Reformer history knows!
    Basic advice: Do not believe this movie; do not buy this movie; and above all, do not buy into what this movie would have you believe about Martin Luther. As a life-long Lutheran who has studied Luther and the Reformation both academically and personally for over thirty years, I cannot recognize the historical Luther at all in this "dramatized biography" film. What you will find here is a Luther that a certain sort of American Lutherans wish Luther had been like: a good Liberal Protestant with all the politically correct knee-jerk reactions properly in place, with a romantic, raw, wildly "prophetic" personality like any proper social-justice advocate should have (mixed in with a heavy dose of what is clearly manic depression/bi-polar disorder that is way out of control; that Luther suffered from bouts of severe depression all his life is true, and documented by Luther himself as well as his friends and colleagues; that he was the raving lunatic portrayed in this film is straight out of the psycho-babble of Erik Erickson and the playwrite Eric Osborne, disproved and debunked fifty years ago).

    On the positive side: I was much impressed by the detailed historical accuracy of the background. The movie shows what life in the 16th century looked like, what people of different social ranks and classes wore, even how people danced at social events. The actor who plays Holy Roman Emperor Charles V is a dead ringer for the emperor in pictures of him from 1519, when he ascended the imperial throne. The same is true of the actor playing Pope Leo X. The movie goes out of its way to show the people and places that surrounded Luther as realistically as possible.

    Except for Martin Luther himself! That sexy, dashing, romantic little beard just gnawed at me. For his whole life, Luther was clean-shaven. The only time he grew a beard was as a disguise when hiding under the protection of Elector Frederick the Wise at the Wartburg Castle after the Diet of Worms in 1521. When Luther returned to public life at Wittenburg in 1522, he shaved the beard and stayed clean-shaven. Every existing picture of Luther -- except for the painting of him done at the Wartburg -- shows him clean-shaven. So who cares? Hollywood always takes liberties like that. I care, because everything about this movie hammers away at the viewer to convince him or her that this is 100% historically true and accurate. That Luther did not look like this -- he was not a sexy, handsome, dashing, romantic swashbuckling hero -- points to the more important fact: Luther did not think or teach like this fantasy-character in the movie, either.

    The movie does not merely get Luther's theology wrong in some precise and technical, intellectually "heavy" ways. The movie grossly misrepresents the whole of Luther's theology as thoroughly "modern" and the origin of "liberal," "personal," "interior" religious "freedom." Again, that is what some Lutherans wish Luther had taught; but you will not find a trace of it in Luther's actual writings.

    Worst of all, though, is the blatantly undisguised anti-Roman Catholic bigotry of this movie. Luther is portrayed as the "father of Protestantism" who "liberated" true, biblical, free Christian faith from the "tyranny of the pope." All the Catholic characters -- Pope Leo X, Cardinal Cajetan, John Tetzel, even annonymous monks, friars and priests -- are all two-dimensional cardboard cut-out targets for Luther to shoot down. They are all corrupt, immoral, hypocritical, liars, legalists, money-grubbing and power-mad. Some are brutes, some are oily snakes, some are Mafia dons (particularly Pope Leo X), some are simpering sycophants. But there is not a good Catholic in the bunch. Even Luther's mentor, Johann von Staupitz, his superior in the Augustinian order (and in reality a supporter and source of inspiration for Luther), turns out to be a weak-willed coward who crumbles to dust in the face of pressure from papal power, abandoning Luther at the Diet of Augsburg in 1518. The fundamental message and moral of this movie is: Protestantism true and good; Roman Catholicism false and evil.

    This is the great vice and evil of this movie -- beyond its dismal record of historical accuracy beyond superficial appearance and costume. The movie is not an honest or even admiring biography of Luther; it is venial Lutheran self-promoting propaganda. It is hate-mongering toward Roman Catholics and Roman Catholicism. It is a vicious and coldly calculating parody and exploitation of the real Luther. It is not only or merely a very bad movie; it is a thoroughly wicked movie just below the surface.

    This movie has no truth to it about the historical Luther or what the real Lutheran Reformation was about. That it was produced with money from Thrivent -- the Lutheran Church's fraternal benefits insurance agency -- with the endorsement, approval and encouragement of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (which publicized it to all its congregations and commended it for all its members to see), is a very sad chapter indeed of this declining mainline, oldline, sideline Protestant denomination....more info
  • Luther
    Luther is a movie made the events surrounding the reformation. IMHO, the movie is excellent. ...more info
  • Luther
    Wonderful cast... very believable. Terrific service to know this historical perspective. I would buy more of this type from this company....more info
  • Incredible
    I avoided this movie when it was in the theaters. Finally a friend rented it and I reluctantly watched it. I was so moved and captivated by it I bought it!...more info
  • Excellent Movie
    This is a great movie. I would highly recommend it and it also helped with my daughter understanding the Reformation in her history class in high school. We liked it so much we even purchased a copy for her history teacher. ...more info
  • Very Good.
    Between this Luther and the one played by Niall MacGinnis ca.1953 I like this one with Joseph Fiennes better. Fiennes simply pulls off the heavier scenes more successfully for me. Even so, and believe it or not, my favorite rendition of Martin Luther is still the one with Stacy Keach [sp?]. I haven't seen the one with Stacy K. for quite awhile now, and I've got to watch it again to be sure I still really feel this way, but its simple - The character done by Stacy K. includes a clear sense of humor, a quality missing from the MacGinnis/Fiennes portrails. Fiennes of course has the theologically satirical moment when he's teaching at university, and its good, but its just not the simple humor that I believe would be a real part of the real character in spite of his demons and earthly persecutions. Keach has that element in a way that is important and satisfying in the telling of Luther's life. Still Fiennes does the heavy stuff best of the three and with one hand tied behind his back. Very well done....more info
  • Very good, but you should know some of the history first
    The movie was very well done. However I only knew a little about the reformation from high-school. Fortunately my sister watched it with me, she had studied religion and filled in MANY of the blanks. They of course, couldn't explain in the time alloted all of what was going on in Catholicism, The German States, and history of Ulrich, a minor character in the movie. I would recommend reading at least an encyclopedia on reformation, Luther, etc. and you will enjoy the movie more the first or second viewing....more info
  • WOW how did GOD make it possible for us to have the WORD!
    Glory to GOD, HE works all thing out for good for those called according to HIS purpose. This is very well done, I was taken off gaurd expecting Hollywood to imply bad character to this person who boldly stood for truth risking great personal loss....more info
  • the drunken monk
    This film, directed by Eric Till, should not be confused with the 1973 film of the same title and starring Stacy Keach as Luther. Both are based upon the play by John Osborne. Like its predecessor, the 2003 film received modest reviews, but given Martin Luther's (1483-1546) importance as the father of the Protestant Reformation, perhaps historical importance rather than cinematic success will earn this film some kudos at least among believers....more info
  • Martin Luther
    First saw it in a local theatre here in NYC. Being a Lutheran, not an active church goer, I was impressed with the content of this movie. I bought the DVD, and would recommend it to anyone interested in the history of the Lutheran church....more info
  • Luther - - Best Historical Presentation of Martin Luther ever
    This DVD is the Best Historical Presentation of Martin Luther ever and the corruption that existed in the Middle Age Church, which would not change until there were such violent protest in Northern Europe. I recently purchased 7 copies and in total I have purchased about 12 copies to give as gifts. I also requested our local library purchase a copy.

    I do not consider this DVD as entertainment, but it is History done better than any other Historical Film. One should also research the events occuring in England, and the Americas which were part of the Holy Roman Empire, and understand that Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, is a great-nephew of Catherine of Argon, King Henry VIII's first wife; and that he is also a decendent of Ferdnand and Isabel of Spain. The DVD will allow you to see the logic behind selling Indulgences and the need to finance St Peters Basilica in Rome. This is a DVD that you will want to view several times as it is so profound. Peter Ustinov and Alfred Molina give unforgetable performances in supporting roles....more info
  • Where corruption grows reformers arise
    I purchased the DVD of this film as soon as it came out.

    The more things change the more they so remain the same. Corrupt clergymen. (Today its the Catholic church and its priests). Theologians who sacrifice the Word of God to Political Correctness. Embracing the abominable to 'get along'. Selling out the world of God and compromising on the abominable to get a few coins. People unfit to be clergy becoming bishops as in the Episcopal Church in the US. In Luther's day, things were just as vile.

    And Luther, though not the first to take up the cause, stood up to all this corruption. And the western world changed.

    This movie is his story. The story of the Great Uncompromising Christian Reformer.

    Admittedly it does not give full depth and cover everything about this great man but no movie or even mini-series can, simply because there is just not enough time. However, it does a good job of it.

    For those not interested in the message, this film is filled with color and drama. The scenerie of Luther's medieval world well portrayed. Quite lovely. Colorful. Anyone interested in medieval times will enjoy this film for its imagery. Excellent acting.

    A great film. ...more info
  • In Response to "The Jackal"
    The Luther movie is not totally historical, but it gets there. The original black and white movie is more in line with the historical Luther than this later remake, but overall a good movie.

    As a Lutheran I must answer the "Jackal" and his statements concerning Jesus and Luther. For starters Jesus did not "hate" the Gentiles. Jesus repeatedly in the gospels praises their faith. He primarily comes to the lost sheep of Israel, but the overall plan is for the church to reach the Gentile community (using Jesus' example). Jesus' use of the word "dogs" is in relationship to a "parable" like way in which he answers the Syro-Phoenician woman - a challenge to her. If you continue to read the story you find that Jesus is impressed with her faith. If someone hated the Gentiles why would he repeatedly be impressed with their faith, especially as it challenged the faith of Israel.

    In regards to Luther he did not advocate a slow genocide. It bothers me when people start making connections between Luther and Hitler. Books have been written to address this issue one by a guy named Simeon Netto and another by a guy named Gene Veith.

    Yes, Luther did say some condemnatory things about the Jews. In a previous essay he actually praises them (note how Jackal does not mention that essay). So, why did Luther write what he did? Using historical context we note that Luther wrote what he did, because he was angry. He was angry because he believed that their would be a mass conversion of Jews to the faith after the Bible was printed in the common language (German). He wrote his harsh words in response to his anger.

    Of course this does not mean that we "excuse" Luther on this account. Luther recognized his own sinfulness and the need for a Savior. Luther was not the Christ, he was sinner like anyone else.

    Lutherans recognize this failing about Luther and reject his negative comments about the Jews. As Lutherans we are discerning and don't blindly agree with everything that Luther said. The most important aspect to Luther is his discovering of salvation by grace through faith - which is spoken of in Scripture. Luther brought Christians back to the Bible. He brought people back to the faith that was taught by Jesus, Paul, and in the early church for the first few centuries. Those are the good things that we can pull from Luther. Like any other historical Christian we can find good things in what they wrote and some not good things. Christians are not perfect, but they are forgiven by the grace of God - a concept affirmed time and time again by Luther....more info
  • Headwaters of the Reformation
    This was an interesting presentation of Martin Luther's life, moving from student to priest to leader of a protestant movement. The insights into family life, church life and political life were great. I really enjoyed this film....more info
    Luther captures the flavor of the times during the most corrupt period of the Catholic Church. The acting is superb, as is the cinematography.

    Luther is depicted as learned theologically, but naive when confronted with the political intrigue of the Vatican. His spiritual insecurities are exposed and contrast with his steadfast refusal to publicly recant his writings, which are sometimes scathingly critical of Church practices at that time.

    This is a must-see for anyone interested in Church history. ...more info
  • The Best Movie I have Ever Seen-This will truly Enlighten You to the Truth
    Confused about the Catholic Religion get this movie. You will truly have a solid understanding on the evil that the Catholic Church does behind its closed doors.

    For anyone trying to help A Catholic see the light buy them this movie.

    ...more info
  • Sugar Coated Luther...
    I see a lot of positive reviews posted here... The historical Luther will not be found in this movie. No doubt the audience is predominantly Lutheran. From a secular entertainment point of view, I would agree with them. 4 Stars. The attention to detail is excellent; it is well acted, well written, well casted. However, director Eric Till has made Luther into a hero. He was no hero. History reveals the truth that is so glaringly absent in the film. The only thing that rang true was that Luther was an anti-establishment, religious zealot reformer, just like Jesus, (only Jesus hated gentiles, calling them "dogs and swine)."

    I challenge Till to make a "Luther Part 2," using excerpts of Luther's OWN WORDS below as the script. It smack's of a Hitler biography/// . Disclaimer: If you are Lutheran, brace yourself. He blatently advocated a slow genocide of the Jews. Hitler picked up on what Luther was throwin' down... "The Jewish vermin... shall have their homes razed... curfews set... business banned..." etc. This is the Luther that is never portrayed. Ad hominem or not, how can Lutheranism be trusted when it's founder was such a hateful individual?

    The Jews and Their Lies, by Martin Luther

    "I had made up my mind to write no more either about the Jews or against them. But since I learned that these miserable and accursed people do not cease to lure to themselves even us, that is, the Christians, I have published this little book, so that I might be found among those who opposed such poisonous activities of the Jews who warned the Christians to be on their guard against them. I would not have believed that a Christian could be duped by the Jews into taking their exile and wretchedness upon himself. However, the devil is the god of the world, and wherever God's word is absent he has an easy task, not only with the weak but also with the strong. May God help us. Amen.
    He did not call them Abraham's children, but a "brood of vipers" [Matt. 3:7]. Oh, that was too insulting for the noble blood and race of Israel, and they declared, "He has a demon' [Matt 11:18]. Our Lord also calls them a "brood of vipers"; furthermore in John 8 [:39,44] he states: "If you were Abraham's children ye would do what Abraham did.... You are of your father the devil. It was intolerable to them to hear that they were not Abraham's but the devil's children, nor can they bear to hear this today.
    Therefore the blind Jews are truly stupid fools...
    Now just behold these miserable, blind, and senseless people.
    ...their blindness and arrogance are as solid as an iron mountain.
    Learn from this, dear Christian, what you are doing if you permit the blind Jews to mislead you. Then the saying will truly apply, "When a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into the pit" [cf. Luke 6:39]. You cannot learn anything from them except how to misunderstand the divine commandments...
    Therefore be on your guard against the Jews, knowing that wherever they have their synagogues, nothing is found but a den of devils in which sheer self-glory, conceit, lies, blasphemy, and defaming of God and men are practiced most maliciously and veheming his eyes on them.
    Moreover, they are nothing but thieves and robbers who daily eat no morsel and wear no thread of clothing which they have not stolen and pilfered from us by means of their accursed usury. Thus they live from day to day, together with wife and child, by theft and robbery, as arch-thieves and robbers, in the most impenitent security.
    However, they have not acquired a perfect mastery of the art of lying; they lie so clumsily and ineptly that anyone who is just a little observant can easily detect it. But for us Christians they stand as a terrifying example of God's wrath.
    If I had to refute all the other articles of the Jewish faith, I should be obliged to write against them as much and for as long a time as they have used for inventing their lies-- that is, longer than two thousand years.
    ...Christ and his word can hardly be recognized because of the great vermin of human ordinances. However, let this suffice for the time being on their lies against doctrine or faith.
    Did I not tell you earlier that a Jew is such a noble, precious jewel that God and all the angels dance when he farts?
    Alas, it cannot be anything but the terrible wrath of God which permits anyone to sink into such abysmal, devilish, hellish, insane baseness, envy, and arrogance. If I were to avenge myself on the devil himself I should be unable to wish him such evil and misfortune as God's wrath inflicts on the Jews, compelling them to lie and to blaspheme so monstrously, in violation of their own conscience. Anyway, they have their reward for constantly giving God the lie.
    No, one should toss out these lazy rogues by the seat of their pants.
    ...but then eject them forever from this country. For, as we have heard, God's anger with them is so intense that gentle mercy will only tend to make them worse and worse, while sharp mercy will reform them but little. Therefore, in any case, away with them!
    Over and above that we let them get rich on our sweat and blood, while we remain poor and they suck the marrow from our bones.
    I brief, dear princes and lords, those of you who have Jews under your rule-- if my counsel does not please your, find better advice, so that you and we all can be rid of the unbearable, devilish burden of the Jews, lest we become guilty sharers before God in the lies, blasphemy, the defamation, and the curses which the mad Jews indulge in so freely and wantonly against the person of our Lord Jesus Christ, this dear mother, all christians, all authority, and ourselves. Do not grant them protection, safe-conduct, or communion with us.... .With this faithful counsel and warning I wish to cleanse and exonerate my conscience.
    Let the government deal with them in this respect, as I have suggested. But whether the government acts or not, let everyone at least be guided by his own conscience and form for himself a definition or image of a Jew.
    However, we must avoid confirming them in their wanton lying, slandering, cursing, and defaming. Nor dare we make ourselves partners in their devilish ranting and raving by shielding and protecting them, by giving them food, drink, and shelter, or by other neighborly acts.
    Therefore we Christians, in turn, are obliged not to tolerate their wanton and conscious blasphemy.
    Accordingly, it must and dare not be considered a trifling matter but a most serious one to seek counsel against this and to save our souls from the Jews, that is, from the devil and from eternal death.
    What shall we Christians do with this rejected and condemned people, the Jews? Since they live among us, we dare not tolerate their conduct, now that we are aware of their lying and reviling and blaspheming. If we do, we become sharers in their lies, cursing and blaspemy. Thus we cannot extinguish the unquenchable fire of divine wrath, of which the prophets speak, nor can we convert the Jews. With prayer and the fear of God we must practice a sharp mercy to see whether we might save at least a few from the glowing flames. We dare not avenge ourselves. Vengeance a thousand times worse than we could wish them already has them by the throat. I shall give you my sincere advice:
    First to set fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn, so that no man will ever again see a stone or cinder of them. This is to be done in honor of our Lord and of Christendom, so that God might see that we are Christians, and do not condone or knowingly tolerate such public lying, cursing, and blaspheming of his Son and of his Christians. For whatever we tolerated in the past unknowingly - and I myself was unaware of it - will be pardoned by God. But if we, now that we are informed, were to protect and shield such a house for the Jews, existing right before our very nose, in which they lie about, blaspheme, curse, vilify, and defame Christ and us (as was heard above), it would be the same as if we were doing all this and even worse ourselves, as we very well know.
    Second, I advise that their houses also be razed and destroyed. For they pursue in them the same aims as in their synagogues. Instead they might be lodged under a roof or in a barn, like the gypsies. This will bring home to them that they are not masters in our country, as they boast, but that they are living in exile and in captivity, as they incessantly wail and lament about us before God.
    Third, I advise that all their prayer books and Talmudic writings, in which such idolatry, lies, cursing and blasphemy are taught, be taken from them...
    Fourth, I advise that their rabbis be forbidden to teach henceforth on pain of loss of life and limb. For they have justly forfeited the right to such an office by holding the poor Jews captive with the saying of Moses (Deuteronomy 17 [:10 ff.]) in which he commands them to obey their teachers on penalty of death, although Moses clearly adds: "what they teach you in accord with the law of the Lord." Those villains ignore that. They wantonly employ the poor people's obedience contrary to the law of the Lord and infuse them with this poison, cursing, and blasphemy. In the same way the Pope also held us captive with the declaration in Matthew 16 [:18], "You are Peter," etc., inducing us to believe all the lies and deceptions that issued from his devilish mind. He did not teach in accord with the word of God, and therefore he forfeited the right to teach.
    Fifth, I advise that safe-conduct on the highways be abolished completely for the Jews. For they have no business in the countryside, since they are not lords, officials, tradesmen, or the like. Let they stay at home...
    Sixth, I advise that usury be prohibited to them, and that all cash and treasure of silver and gold be taken from them and put aside for safekeeping. The reason for such a measure is that, as said above, they have no other means of earning a livelihood than usury, and by it they have stolen and robbed from us all they possess. Such money should now be used in no other way than the following: Whenever a Jew is sincerely converted, he should be handed one hundred, two hundred, or three hundred florins, as personal circumstances may suggest. With this he could set himself up in some occupation for the support of his poor wife and children, and the maintenance of the old or feeble. For such evil gains are cursed if they are not put to use with God's blessing in a good and worthy cause.
    Seventh, I commend putting a flail, an ax, a hoe, a spade, a distaff, or a spindle into the hands of young, strong Jews and Jewesses and letting them earn their bread in the sweat of their brow, as was imposed on the children of Adam (Gen 3[:19]}. For it is not fitting that they should let us accursed Goyim toil in the sweat of our faces while they, the holy people, idle away their time behind the stove, feasting and farting, and on top of all, boasting blasphemously of their lordship over the Christians by means of our sweat. No, one should toss out these lazy rogues by the seat of their pants.
    But what will happen even if we do burn down the Jews' synagogues and forbid them publicly to praise God, to pray, to teach, to utter God's name? They will still keep doing it in secret. If we know that they are doing this in secret, it is the same as if they were doing it publicly. For our knowledge of their secret doings and our toleration of them implies that they are not secret after all and thus our conscience is encumbered with it before God.
    Accordingly, it must and dare not be considered a trifling matter but a most serious one to seek counsel against this and to save our souls from the Jews, that is, from the devil and from eternal death. My advice, as I said earlier, is:
    First, that their synagogues be burned down, and that all who are able toss in sulphur and pitch; it would be good if someone could also throw in some hellfire. That would demonstrate to God our serious resolve and be evidence to all the world that it was in ignorance that we tolerated such houses, in which the Jews have reviled God, our dear Creator and Father, and his Son most shamefully up till now but that we have now given them their due reward.
    I wish and I ask that our rulers who have Jewish subjects exercise a sharp mercy toward these wretched people, as suggested above, to see whether this might not help (though it is doubtful). They must act like a good physician who, when gangrene has set in, proceeds without mercy to cut, saw, and burn flesh, veins, bone, and marrow. Such a procedure must also be followed in this instance. Burn down their synagogues, forbid all that I enumerated earlier, force them to work, and deal harshly with them, as Moses did in the wilderness, slaying three thousand lest the whole people perish. They surely do not know what they are doing; moreover, as people possessed, they do not wish to know it, hear it, or learn it. There it would be wrong to be merciful and confirm them in their conduct. If this does not help we must drive them out like mad dogs, so that we do not become partakers of their abominable blasphemy and all their other vices and thus merit God's wrath and be damned with them. I have done my duty. Now let everyone see to his. I am exonerated."
    My essay, I hope, will furnish a Christian (who in any case has no desire to become a Jew) with enough material not only to defend himself against the blind, venomous Jews, but also to become the foe of the Jews' malice, lying, and cursing, and to understand not only that their belief is false but that they are surely possessed by all devils. May Christ, our dear Lord, convert them mercifully and preserve us steadfastly and immovably in the knowledge of him, which is eternal life. [1]
    ...more info
  • True excellence
    This is what film making should be about.

    Surely if he lived as the movie protrayed this was a man of God....more info
  • An Exciting, Intelligent, and Visually Beautiful Epic
    Eric Till's 2003 bio-pic "Luther," starring Joseph Fiennes as the title character, offers the epic-hungry viewer much of what he craves: big, big struggles: Man against God, Man against Man, Light against Darkness, discussed in an intelligent script set against a vividly rich and slightly exotic locale: late Medieval-Early Renaissance, Mitteleuropa.

    Epic fans will be reminded of such favorites as David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia," "A Man for All Seasons," about St. Thomas More, and Mervyn LeRoy's "Quo Vadis."

    Joseph Fiennes makes a perfect cinematic Luther. As I watched Fiennes / Luther writhing in violent struggle with a real or imaginary Satan, as I gazed into Fiennes' huge, exquisitely expressive eyes, I thought, "Hmm, who is he reminding me of?" At first I thought of his more famous older brother Ralph Fiennes, star of the somewhat-epic "The English Patient," but then I realized, no, no, Fiennes' Luther is reminding me very much of Peter O'Toole's Lawrence of Arabia, and that's a very good thing.

    Like O'Toole, Fiennes is charismatic, fascinating, and highly watchable. Like O'Toole's Lawrence, Fiennes' Luther is a man who is like you and me and yet not, an average guy destined to a rarified calling. Like us, he is offended by hypocrisy, but, unlike us, his character demands that he take action. He behaves in ways that some find heroic, and that others find insanely risky. Thus, he is thrust out ahead of the crowd, and becomes, inevitably, alone.

    Bruno Ganz is wonderful as Johann von Staupitz, Luther's confessor and mentor. Ganz's face looks like a handful of uncooked bread dough. He is one hundred percent convincing, whether depicting compassion, as he guides Luther, or agony, as he lets his protegee go. You wish you had your own Johann von Staupitz.

    The great Sir Peter Ustinov appears here as Frederick the Wise, Ustinov's final theatrical film role. Frederick is a very wealthy ruler. He has collected a peerless museum of holy relics: this saint's arm, that saint's skull, etc. Luther preached against relics, and yet Frederick became Luther's protector. Ustinov portrays Frederick as an aging and yet still sly old fox - not as quick as he once might have been, but, if somewhat creaky, just as crafty. Film fans will compare this final role by Ustinov with one of his first, as a very different ruler, the Christian-murdering Nero, in 1951's "Quo Vadis."

    Alfred Molina, playing the bad guy yet again, is superb in vivid scenes that depict exactly how the Catholic Church convinced the faithful to part with their money to build St. Peter's, the very St. Peter's in Rome that we are all familiar with today. Molina describes the tortures of hell that their loved ones are suffering; "Coin in the coffer rings; a soul from Purgatory springs," he says, in an actual quote from the character he is playing.

    The conflicts these actors portray all seem very real and very immediate. It is clear that Luther is risking his own life, and the lives of thousands of others, with every word he speaks and writes. The viewer does get the sense that what is happening here is something that matters very much.

    "Luther" is a feast for the eyes. It was filmed on 100 sets in 20 locations throughout Germany, Italy and the Czech Republic, and all that is very visible, and beautifully photographed, onscreen. The costumes are especially rich. Late medieval-early renaissance velvets, pearls, ermines, and peasants' rags practically invite your hand to reach out and touch them.

    "Luther" has its flaws. Joseph Fiennes' Luther is a sweetheart who wouldn't hurt a fly. The Luther who has come down to us in his own writings, however, is notoriously abrasive. Luther used much scatological language. The relation between his writing and the deaths of tens of thousands in the Peasants' War is addressed by the film, but not dwelled upon. Luther approved of the burning of witches. Much attention has been brought, lately, to Luther's intemperate words about Jews. That Luther is not depicted here.

    There's a lot of history in "Luther," and some very big ideas are addressed. Is it always benign to question authority? How do people who have been oppressed behave when the lid is lifted? What are the dangers of freedom, and of a "Let's wipe the slate clean" mentality? One brief scene attempts to address all these questions: Luther's former teacher, a man who used to uphold Catholic doctrine, now suddenly converted to what he sees as Luther's cause, humiliates a young priest for wearing a crucifix, and recommends that churches be destroyed. Will the average viewer understand the import of such a brief scene exploring such huge issues?

    Similarly, Luther's romance with a nun who escaped her convent in a herring barrel is given very short shrift. And, Luther was one crest on a wave, not the entire movement. Jan Hus, for example, deserves more prominent mention.

    To fully address these themes, the movie could have easily been an hour longer. What is here is very good and very exciting, though. This film deserves a much wider audience than it is has had so far.
    ...more info
  • The world could use spirit like this today
    The world was really rotten in the early 1500's.
    There was this fellow who was just a teacher and scholar
    who saw all this and said, I have to say something,
    this is just too dirty and rotten.
    If there had been no Luther , one doubts that there would be a western European culture as the Turks were knocking hard at Germany and the lower part of Europe.
    So Turkish Islam may have taken over Europe except for Luther's reformation.
    People don't fight well for the corruption that was Rome at this time.
    The picture points out that Luther was in no way a democratic or people's person: peasants were slaughtered when they revolted and he stood by the people who did that.
    Empires of church and state rise and fail, but men continue....more info
  • reasoned faith
    Well acted and entertaining, this movie would be a good watch if it were total fiction. However very much of it is fact. A great look at a man who refused to follow the status quo of the established church and turned to the teachings of Christ and the bible to base his faith and life on. Both entertaining and thought provoking....more info
  • Excellent Historically
    A well presented (and acted) view of the issues at hand at the time of Luther with his discovery and stand for faith for justification versus indulgences and works of the law...more info
  • Great teaching tool
    This is a great movie. As a World History teacher I use parts of this movie on our study of the Protestant Reformation. I recommend this movie to students of religion, and World History teachers, and anyone interested in religious studies. Martin Luther was a giant in the history of mankind. You might want to do a little background study before viewing the movie so as not to be confused by the sequence of events. Few movies made about historical figures are as accurate as this. The acting by Fiennes as Luther is superb as well as the supporting cast. If you are in need of courage, see this movie....more info
  • Pretty accurate; for mature audiences
    A friend loaned us this DVD and my husband I watched it last night. We both enjoyed this portrait of a sensitive man who made a huge impact on the world. The accuracy was remarkable to me, as I have read a lot on Luther, and have been disappointed with the accuracy of movies in general. I recognized much as verbatim Luther or Tetzel. Also the movie seemed to capture the fear, sensitivity, wit, boldness and faith that characterized Luther. I did feel let down over the way Katherina was portrayed. Although it is true that she was the one to propose marriage, it was in a far different manner and situation. Historically she was direct, but without the boldness shown in the movie.

    While I did enjoy the movie, I would definitely not recommend it for family viewing. There were a few "language" incidents, some using coarse terms that could have been left out, and some using strong language that was entirely appropriate. When Luther went to Rome he saw much that disgusted him, and the viewer is given at least a hint of it all. And even I turned away at some of the images of violence. Over 100,000 people were killed in the peasants' revolt, and the bloody bodies were not a pretty sight. I turned away from the boy who hung himself and could not watch the burning of Luther's friend. These horrific things happened and it was terrible. But I could not watch, and I would not put these images before children. So with those caveats, I would cautiously recommend this movie to mature audiences. ...more info
  • An Important Piece of History
    Throughout the history of Christianity and before, the religious Establishment has often been at odds with the faithful who take their religion personally. That syndrome continues in many forms today, with for example, a "building program" that becomes an end in itself rather than a channel for the worship of God.

    With superb acting all around, "Luther" clearly defines the reasons and results of the Protestant Reformation in a way that will be understood and appreciated by modern Protestants and Catholics alike. In this case, Pope Leo's "building program" was St. Peter's Basilica. Martin Luther is presented as a sincere and dedicated young priest who is shocked and heartsick over the Pope's selling of indulgences (forgiveness of sin) in exchange for building fund contributions.

    Martin Luther maintains his sincerity and humility throughout the movie, as the corruption of the Establishment becomes more and more apparent. He is awed by the realization of the power that his movement has unleashed. His many contributions to Christianity are brought out, including his hymns and his translation of the Holy Bible into German, "the language of the people."...more info
  • Very accurate
    This is a very accurate presentation of Luther and the events that happened. I have read a couple of church history books and this movie is almost verbatem....more info
  • Great Movie
    This movie will teach you about standing up for your beliefs. This is a great movie for the entire family and especially to teach integrity....more info
  • Good Movie.
    Joseph Fiennes does a good job playing Martin Luther that wrote the 95 Theses which made people rebelle against the Catholic church's false teachings. Making & scaring people to buy indulgencses from the Catholic churhces for their salvation to go to heaven, Luther exposes the Catholic church & writes that salvation is from Christ alone & it can Not be earned, only accepted.

    I recommend this film for people to watch.

    **Watch a great documentry DVD filmed by PBS titled 'Empires: Martin Luther'....more info
  • A Must See For All Lutherans
    This was an excellent period piece that I highly recommend. Extremely well acted. History buffs will love it as will all Lutherans....more info
  • Great story, great movie.
    This is a great movie that depicts the life and struggles of Martin Luther. It is educational and interesting, keeping your attention. The acting and scenery are very good. I highly recommend for people of any age, any religious persuasion. Luther had a major impact on western civilization as a whole and Christianity in particular. I believe the History Channel rated him 2nd only to Guttenberg as the most influential persons of the last 1000 years....more info
  • Not About Academic Freedom, Not About Religious Tolerance
    Two Hours and four minutes to depict twenty-five years; Facts are going to be distorted and timelines are going to be thrown off more then a movie that depicts a day or even one year. By the very scope of the movie snapshots about a man, his career, his cause, and the effect of one man is that can be shown. This movie is a depiction of the Reformation as pushed and formed through the actions of one man. Yes the movie depicts priest and monks as nearly illiterate, but that is not the main focus of the story or even a focal point as the cause of the Reformation. Some reviewers complain it does not depict Luther as Urban and coming from peasant stock. To a point this is true about Luther, but he was by far more educated then 90% of those entering the monastery. He studied the law and was to become a lawyer. This is why he was well positioned to become more educated then the vast majority of monks. This barely touched on. This movie chose to depict Martin Luther's struggle between man's sinfulness, his own guilt before God, the wrath of God, the Catholic Church teaching about Justification, and what he came to believe what the Bible taught. The movie starts with Luther running from lightning striking him, realizing God was chasing him, and promising to devout his life to Christ. Then there is a depiction of him struggling with his sin nature and God's judgment towards himself. With no explanation why Luther went to Rome nor depiction of those who went with him, the movie illustrates Luther trying to follow Catholic rules to diminish time in purgatory. The makers of the movie are clearly try to illustrate experience and dread about what was going on in God's church. Praying towards relics and crawling up hundreds of stairs to please God. Stairs. The evil in selling indulgences and even the concept of indulgences is well depicted. I think the deals well with the German and Roman political situation of the time. Maybe not enough about the selfish reasons why German princes did not want to follow a Roman central church, but again to do would have at least added 15 minutes to the movie or other parts diminish. Yes this movie is sympathetic to Martin Luther and the Reformation. I enjoyed the movie. I would recommend any Christian parent to oblige their teenager to watch this movie as a starting point in knowing Luther. To know God's will not out of councils or teachings of the church if it contradicts God's word...more info
  • Joseph Fiennes an excellent actor stuck in a poorly made film
    Martin Luther was stuck outdoors in a very severe lightning storm. He makes a pact to God that if he survives, he will dedicate his life to the Lord as a monk. While scrubbing the floors of what looks in what looks to be a terrible assignment, Luther gets the opportunity of a lifetime, to study at a leading European seminary. At this point, he has not even read the New Testament, which was only available in Latin, a language more than 99% of the public could not read.

    Luther turns out to be a brilliant student and ends up a Professor of Theology at the college. His chair is paid for by the Roman Catholic Church. After a visit to Rome in the early 1520s, Luther is distraught at the corruption permeating from the city, including the sale of holy relics and indulgences with the promise of fewer years in purgatory. This trip prompts him to post the '95 Theses' a comprehensive list of abuses by officials in the Church. Important to note is that Luther was a devout Catholic, he only wanted to reform the Church--not start a new religion. Of course, one thing led to another and the German theologian finds himself at the seat of the Inquisition, which is known for excommunicating those displeased with the Church, and more than a few summary executions.

    Joseph Fiennes does an outstanding job as Martin Luther, but he alone cannot carry the film. The editing is extremely choppy and supporting cast lacking. Dramatic dialogue is not properly frames and key events in history seem to be afterthoughts, often just a quick flash on the screen sans explanation.

    I believe Martin Luther is a hero to both Protestant and Catholics, since he inspired that Protestant Reformation as well as the Catholic Counter-Reformation. It is disappointing that this film falls below the standards of more recent biopics Ray (Full Screen Edition) and Walk the Line (Full Screen Edition), which portrayed men who had far less influence on world history than Martin Luther. Watch if you like, but don't expect a film with the sureness Martin Luther displayed in posting his famous Theses. ...more info
  • I don't think Joseph Feinnes looks like Martin Luther did!
    But, it's a nice fantasy.
    I enjoyed this version of the Luther story. Martin Luther was a complex character and I think Joseph Fiennes portrayed him in a way that shed some new light on him. He also may have softened some of the difficult realities about him. I don't believe Martin Luther could have perceived of the division his writings would create or the eventual bloodshed and spiritual battling. Perhaps those in power in Germany exploited the popularity of his writings for their own gain. Hindsight is never 20/20 and our current perspective about what the mindset was and what the influences were during Luther's lifetime are just so much conjecture. He left a mark on history, intentional or not, that caused brother to rise up against brother and we carry on with the divisions incurred in various ways today. I do recommend seeing it if you have an interest in Martin Luther, many of the scenes are beautifully portrayed. And the one with him mounting the steps of the cathedral on his knees has stayed in my mind a long time. I'm sorry that this film was so narrowly distributed. ...more info
  • Well Done and Entertaining Historical Film
    This film is an entertaining and historically accurate depiction of Martin Luther, one of the major figures in the 1400-1500s. It doesn't answer questions, but presents his story in a compelling manor.

    Even if the story were fiction, the film would be entertaining and compelling....more info