- Eric Till
- Reviewed by
- Jorge Castillo a.k.a. Mithrandir
- Review date
- Saturday, December 04, 2004
Luther tells the story of Martin Luther, a German monk who lived around the XVI century. The movie begins with the fable that is commonly thought brought Luther into the monastery in the first place: during an awful storm, full of lightning and thunder, he sought asylum in the monastery having no other place to go. Then he became a monk. Later, he would also become a priest, which gave him a chance to see the suffering of the people around him.
During a trip to Rome, Luther realized how disgusting and hypocritical the Catholic Church was, where you could get, for a certain amount of money, an indulgence (a piece of paper from the Pope) to get a loved one out of the Purgatory. He also saw how many relics were in Rome, considered Biblical, which people had to pay to see and which supposedly, just by seeing them, would significantly lower the time you spent in the Purgatory. Luther underwent a change of mind, where he had no idea what to do or what to think, not knowing whether God was benevolent or malevolent. These thoughts in the movie play out mostly by Luther screaming and talking to himself inside a clustered room, as if there was a demon tormenting him. Eventually Luther, who had by now become a teacher of Theology at the University, decided that he had had enough, and wrote down (and published) the Ninety-five Theses, which was basically a challenge at Catholic law from the moment and critics to the institutes stated by the Church as solemn and sovereign. If you know history or the life of this man, you’ll know what happens next, which I will not spoil for the reader who don’t.
To this day, I’m still surprised that the film received mostly mixed reviews here in the United States. I’m also surprised that it didn’t get any Academy Award nominations (nor will it get them coming this new award season). There are people here who deserve to receive awards for their work. Eric Till, the director, certainly deserves praise. He managed to get across a huge point in the history of mankind, without looking for any subplots or something to “attract” viewers: it stayed true to the history of Martin Luther, and for this, I’m very thankful. The writing is also phenomenal, with excellent dialogue throughout and lines uttered by Luther offering more than just the regular talking stuff: The man offers insight, and metaphors, and allusions, and every range of literary devices imaginable… even lyrical, which is the little part that I sincerely dislike about this movie; there are certain parts of the dialogue that come out more like a rhyme than an actual line, obviously nothing that a human being would say in an everyday language, but apparently used by the creators to give a Shakespearean approach to the movie. Either way, the excellent directing and writing and musical score and the dialogue (for the most part) more than make up for these little details.
The cast, in my opinion, could not have been chosen better, and this is where I also contemplate my disappointment for the movie not being noticed enough by most reviewers and award-giving “academies”. Joseph Fiennes, as Martin Luther, is nothing short of amazing, portraying the man with such a quality and caress that you truly start to believe at some point, that the man is Martin Luther. He deserved an award for Best Actor, or at least a nomination. Another person who I thought truly deserved an award was Peter Ustinov, who plays Friedrich, the king of a province of Germany. There was a scene where King Friedrich received a gold rose from the Pope himself, as a form of “thank you” for his work over the years, but mainly as a way to buy him into sending Luther to Rome to be tried as a heretic: fantastic. That scene alone should have won him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Yet, I digress; may his soul rest in peace.
This movie was great from many standpoints: from a historical point of view, it was completely accurate and very well portrayed. From a commercial point of view, it was probably one of the best movies I’ve seen all year. Now, I may be biased because of the movie’s theme, but I still suggest to anyone to go and rent it. You will witness the true face of the Catholic Church existent at the moment in Germany (everything from it is lowest to its lowest – I still to this day cannot find anything good in this religion). You will witness the reasons why Luther himself wrote his Thesis (the interpretation from the townspeople and the people at Rome is incredible). Best of all, you will see the beginning of a new era, the birth of a new religious movement: Protestantism. Although Luther created (whether he wanted it or not) a new religion (Lutherans), his bigger part in the picture stands as the creator of the Non-Catholic movement, a movement where you could be saved by being a good man and doing good deeds, not because you were predestined to die and go to Hell; a movement where you were allowed to read the Bible (which Luther translated into German for the first time – a crime and a heresy at the moment, since the only control the Catholic Church had over its people was that they could not read the Bible, thus unknowingly submitting to the Church’s teachings without any other option), and interpret it your own way; a movement where you were free… for the first time in thousands of years, you were free: from religion, from statistics, from the Church… even from God, if that was your wish. We’re saved through God’s grace, if we have faith in him, and that’s written on the Bible. Would you like to challenge that?...
“Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise.”
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