How refreshing to see a movie where following the Bible and a love for Christ are shown without irony or humor. Or a “look at these strange creatures” detached feeling. Or a hip “ain’t God cool” vibe. Luther is just a straight story about one of the most significant lives in history.
Joseph Fiennes is Martin Luther. We first see him panicking in a thunderstorm and vowing to become a monk if he lives. He becomes a brilliant but guilt-ridden monk. He is sent to Rome on some business and sees that Rome has become "a circus" as a couple of different characters say. Then other events take place that send Luther toward his rebellion against abuses in the Catholic Church which the Church, needing money, will not admit are abuses. To be fair, there are those in the Church hoping for reform, but many of them consider Luther to be going too far in his criticisms. Things begin to spin out of control as people begin to believe they are oppressed politically as well as spiritually. Luther must live with the consequences of his writings and actions. One wonders, if Luther hadn't been away for a year in the castle, could he have prevented the Peasant Revolt?
The viewer gets a vague sense of the dangers individuals faced making choices, but probably there is no way to adequately show how much risk there was to every word or move for some. One does get a sense of the confusion and difficulty faced by those in power.
The movie moves pretty quickly and it’s hard to get a sense of the time passing. Luther spent almost a year in Wartburg Castle, but that is not understood just by watching the movie. I guess Martin Luther deserves an HBO miniseries like John Adams.
Peter Ustinov is fantastic as Fredrick the Wise. Frankly, I wish the movie had been made 30 years ago with Ustinov as Luther.
For some background on Luther, read Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Lutherby Roland Bainton or just the Wiki article.
Luther (the film) is not as great as A Man For All Seasons, but not many films are. However, it is very well done and certainly worth your time.
Luther, directed by Eric Till, written by Camille Thomasson and Bart Gavigan, starring Joseph Fiennes, Jonathan Firth, Peter Ustinov. 123 minutes. 2003.