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Martin Luther: The Movie and the Man

No, the Other Martin Luther!

By

Luther Fiennes

Joseph Fiennes as Martin Luther

He may share his name with the African-American leader of the U.S. civil rights movement in the 1960s, but the "original" Martin Luther lived during the 16th century at the same time as Copernicus, Magellan, and Michelangelo.

Like his famous Renaissance contemporaries, Luther changed the world in significant ways. After Martin Luther, the religious and political face of Germany, Europe, and the world would never be the same. LUTHER the movie tries to tell this important story in an entertaining way, but some early reviews of the film cast doubt on the big-budget movie's success in doing so. "More histrionics than history," claims Film Journal; "This Diet of Worms Is a Can of Worms" titles ReelTalk.

Filmed in Germany and other authentic European locations, the motion picture features a strong cast and sumptuous cinematography by Robert Fraisse. In addition to Joseph Fiennes ("Shakespeare in Love") in the lead role, the Swiss-German actor Bruno Ganz ("Wings of Desire") appears as Luther's personal priest and adviser. Sir Peter Ustinov ("Spartacus") is Frederick III ("the Wise"), Luther's patron, while the German actor Uwe Ochsenknecht plays Pope Leo X. Luther's nemesis, the "indulgences" sinner Johann Tetzel, is portrayed by Alfred Molina. Since Luther rejected not only a church but celibacy as well, the filmmakers are able to throw in an element of sex in the form of Luther's interest in the ex-nun Katharina von Bora (Claire Cox). The ex-monk and the ex-nun married and had six children.

But no matter how the film portrays the life of Luther, history tells us how the philosopher and Augustinian monk tore the Catholic church apart and helped create the Protestant church (evangelische Kirche). Luther's German translation of the Bible is still used today. His German homeland is now roughly half Catholic and half Protestant, although many people living in Luther's home state of Thuringia (Thüringen), once part of communist East Germany, today profess no religion at all.

Whatever the merits of the film (U.S. release, Sept. 26, 2003), it is my hope that it can accomplish at least one thing. In the future, the mention of Luther's name may not make students think only of Martin Luther King, Jr.

  • Director: Eric Till
  • Studio: RS Entertainment/NFPTeleart
  • Language: English
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