with little more than his beliefs and quick wit, Martin Luther, a
young 16th century monk driven by outrage, confronts the Medieval
Church, fostering a new era of personal and religious freedoms.
(2003) Film Review by Paul
page was created on September 3, 2003
This page was last updated on
May 29, 2005
David's Interview with Dennis
Trailers, Photos pt1
About this Film
About this Cast
About this Crew
Dial up modems will take a few moments
by Eric Till
Screenplay by Bart Gavigan and Camille Thomasson
Cast - in credits order
Joseph Fiennes ... Martin Luther
Alfred Molina ... Johann Tetzel
Jonathan Firth ... Girolamo Aleandro
Claire Cox ... Katharina von Bora
Peter Ustinov ... Friedrich
Bruno Ganz ... Johann von Staupitz
Uwe Ochsenknecht ... Pope Leo XII
Mathieu Carrière ... Cardinal Cajetan
Marco Hofschneider ... Ulrick
Torben Liebrecht ... Charles V.
Other credited cast listed alphabetically
Herb Andress ... Gunter
James Babson ... Dominican Monk
Jeff Caster ... Matthew
Cesare Cremonini ... Guardian Monk
Jens Winter ... Fugger auditor
Massimo Iacobis ... production manager: Italy
Michal Prikryl ... production manager: Prague
Sabine Renger ... assistant unit manager
Peter Schiller ... production manager
Imke Sommerkamp ... unit manager
Music by Richard Harvey
Cinematography by Robert Fraisse
Editored by Clive Barrett
Rated PG 13
For rating reasons, go to FILMRATINGS.COM,
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with little more than his beliefs and quick wit, Martin Luther, a
young 16th century monk driven by outrage, confronts the Medieval
Church. While he is not always cognizant of the far-reaching repercussions
of his actions, he ultimately helps usher in the Reformation, fostering
a new era of personal and religious freedoms.
While a young law student, Luther abruptly changes course and joins
the Augustinian order of monks when he believes his life is spared
during a violent lightning storm. His ambitious father is infuriated,
and thus Luther turns to a spiritual mentor, Father Johann von Staupitz
(BRUNO GANZ). Luther proves an eager, apt disciple and Staupitz selects
Luther to join the monastery’s contingent of monks leaving for
Rome on church business. He enters the city with the wide-eyed ideals
of a young man--only to have them shattered. Depravity is everywhere.
Here, Luther learns about "indulgences." With these Vatican
sponsored certificates, people may buy salvation for a fee and free
themselves or deceased relatives from eternal damnation. The young
friar brands this the highest form of cynicism and profiteering and
asks, “Is not salvation accessible to all?”
Luther is sent to study at the new university in Wittenberg and later
becomes a professor of theology. Among his staunch supporters is Prince
Frederick the Wise (PETER USTINOV), who admires Luther’s courage
of conviction--even though the monk’s vociferous opinions are
beginning to cause ripples.
In Rome, the new pope, Leo X, has mandated that funds be raised to
rebuild St. Peter’s Basilica. The huge financial undertaking
is to be financed by the sales of indulgences. The premiere “marketer”
of indulgences, Brother John Tetzel (ALFRED MOLINA), preaches to a
large German crowd about the hell fire awaiting their wretched souls
should they forego this new “special indulgence.”
Luther is incensed at such naked manipulation, inspiring him to write
his 95 Theses, an essay he nails to the local church’s door.
His writing is reproduced via the new Guttenberg printing press and,
within weeks, his criticism of the Church is being read throughout
The Pope reacts angrily. Luther is to recant his heretical writings
or face excommunication, trial by Inquisition and, likely, death.
As David before Goliath, he refuses to recant. While his works are
inciting popular support among the masses, the Church moves to silence
him, permanently. He takes refuge with Prince Frederick, and thus
becomes an outlaw for the remainder of his life.
The stage is set for an unprecedented confrontation as Luther is increasingly
seen as a popular icon. A schism rips at the heart of the Church as
the new “Protestant” movement surges among the populace.
Soon, hundreds of thousands pay the price of their rebellion with
their lives. Ultimately, Luther’s followers break with Rome,
and its hold over the social, political and religious lives of all
Europe is vulnerable for the first time in its history.
From this point, Western Civilization develops new attitudes about
religion and social order that eventually change the world forever.
RS Entertainment presents “LUTHER,” starring Joseph Fiennes,
Alfred Molina, Jonathan Firth, Claire Cox, Sir Peter Ustinov, Bruno
Ganz, Uwe Ochsenknecht, Mathieu Carrière and Benjamin Sadler
in an NFP Teleart Production. Eric Till is the director; Camille Thomasson
and Bart Gavigan are the screenwriters; Dennis Clauss, Kurt Rittig,
Gabriela Pflindner and J. Dan Nichols are executive producers; Brigitte
Rochow, Christian P. Stehr and Alexander Thies are producers. Robert
Fraisse is the director of photography; Clive Barrett is the film
editor; Roif Zehetbauer is the production designer; Ulla Gothe is
the costume designer; Hasso von Hugo is the make-up supervisor; and
Richard Harvey the composer.
LUTHERAN POINT OF VIEW
lights go down and the screen stays black. The pounding noise of
thunder grows louder. The screen flashes with a burst of
lightning, and we see a man running across an open field. Bolts
of lightning crash all around. The man falls face down in mud, crying
out in terror, "Save me, St. Anne. I'll become a monk. Save me!
So begins Luther, the new movie on the life of the Reformer. After
the storm, we see Luther as a monk, and then the movie moves to
Luther celebrating his first mass, trembling in fear at the moment
of consecrating the elements of Holy Communion. The movie continues
with scene after scene in the life of the younger Luther.
The years covered are July 1505 to June 1530. This is the greatest
challenge for the movie. It may also be a chief criticism of it.
How is it possible to fit these twenty-five tumultuous years into
a space of less than two hours? Is there too much to make sense?
What has to be left out? One can only imagine the agonizing decisions
that had to be made in the process.
movie is stunning, dramatic, powerful, and beautiful. For
a Lutheran, the movie is intensely emotional. The movie takes a
few liberties with the sequence of certain events and even some
details, for the sake of making sense out of things for the viewer.
Where the movie does portray an actual event and relate actual details,
the level of fidelity to the actual history is remarkable and powerful.
acting is very well done by the lead, Joseph Fiennes, who
portrays Luther as a young monk, gaunt from his monastic life, profoundly
intense and passionate about the spiritual care of souls, both his
own and others. Those who play supporting roles in the film do a
very fine job. All are very authentic and believable, communicating
through voice and expression, the entire range of human experience.
Does the Gospel come through in this movie? Absolutely,
yes. Would I have appreciated more? Yes, absolutely. Let me hasten
to add that it was breathtaking to hear the Gospel come through
as clearly as it did, when it did. A major Hollywood distributor
said that he loved the movie and wanted to distribute it, except
for one condition. He asked for all the "Christ stuff" to be taken
out. It wasn't. Thank goodness.
movie shows Luther's progress in realizing how, in Christ, God
is a loving heavenly Father, not the harsh judge who is
appeased only though a Christian's works. I would have appreciated
a bit more than what the movie did, but I can not help but be thankful
for the Gospel that is in the movie. There is no question that it
is Christ whom Luther discovered.
does a marvelous job portraying the problems of the church
in the 16th century; the scenes of Luther's visit to Rome and then
the selling of indulgences by Tetzel are absolutely brilliant. They
use a fictitious woman and her child to bring home the personal
impact of the sale of indulgences and Luther's very pastoral response.
costumes, location work, and cinema photography are stunning.
The historical accuracy is also impressive. For example, Lucas Cranach's
paintings are seen in the elector's palace. The relics on display
are very authentic-looking; the costumes show the stark contrast
between the "haves" and the "have-nots." Those who are aware of
these details will appreciate the depth of detail in the movie.
The movie was filmed on many locations throughout Europe and therefore
has a level of realism and authenticity that is very impressive.
The movie shows Luther's multifaceted personality, warts and all.
The depth of his spiritual anguish is shown in disturbing reality
as he writhes in spiritual, emotional and mental torment, contemplating
a God whom He can never make love Him and a Devil constantly seeking
to devour him. It is painful to watch. But then we see the bold,
confident man of faith, clinging to the Word, standing up courageously
for what the Word of God teaches about Christ and salvation. The
movie ends with a dramatic portrayal of the courage of the princes
of the German territories at Augsburg informing Emperor Charles
V of their decision to defend the teachings of Luther.
has been assigned the rating of PG-13. The scenes of death
in the movie are graphic. There are no battle sequences, but the
results of the peasant war are graphically presented, along with
several images of hangings. This is not a movie for younger children,
nor should it be. The portrayal of violence is necessary to show
just how powerful an impact the results of Luther's work and its
This reviewer left the movie theater inspired,
uplifted and profoundly moved by the power of this movie. It encouraged
me to dig more deeply into Luther's writings, and Luther biographies.
It brought many aspects of the man Luther to life and lifted him
from a cold printed page to a living, human reality.
Luther will be released this fall, September 26, in 300 theatres,
in 55 major urban areas across the country, with more to come following
throughout the rest of the year.
David's Interview with Producer Dennis
by MIKE FURCHES
Mike is the Senior Pastor at United at the Cross Community Church
in Wichita Kansas. United at the Cross is a church made up of individuals
not often accepted in other churches. The church consists of former
gang members, drug addicts, prostitutes and others. Mike also speaks
nationally on various topics and is a freelance writer. To learn more
about Mike and his ministry link onto www.furches.org.
In the arts Mike has worked with top music artists such as Steppenwolf,
Marshall Tucker Band, Kansas and has an active interest in film.
ANABAPTIST POINT OF VIEW
recent headlines about the Passion movie by Mel Gibson and comments
regarding Anti-Semitism one would have to wonder where all of the
hoopla has been regarding the release of Luther starring Joseph
Fiennes as Martin Luther. After all, the Christian Church has had
its own history of not getting along and this film helps rekindle
those memories. Despite this film trying to cover too much territory
and leaving out important historical facts, it is still worthwhile.
Certain facts left out include the fact that other individuals had
issues with the Holy Roman Catholic Church and its need for reform.
Facts such as Luther's own mandates against fellow believers such
as another reformer lead by Menno Simmons and his decree that those
who followed Anabaptist Theology, (Adult and believers baptism)
should be declared heretics and issued a third baptism which lead
to the drowning of thousands of Anabaptists. The unfortunate fact
is that many of the martyrs during the Reformation took place at
the direction of Martin Luther yet the movie never addresses this
issue of his humanity. These things said, the importance of his
teachings and writings on the time cannot, nor should they, be ignored.
Luther is well worth seeing, even for an Anabaptist like me who
is well aware of the history of our Martyrs, (i.e. Foxes Book of
This film starts out quite interestingly covering the calling of
Luther into the church and adequately shows his later conversion
to follow Jesus Christ. I certainly appreciated the fact that the
movie covered the issue, which is the difference between following
the teachings of the church and the teachings of Christ. In one
poignant scene his mentor Father Staupitz played wonderfully by
Bruno Ganz has Luther holding on to a crucifix that has been placed
in his hands and him being told to essentially, follow Jesus and
turn his life over to Christ. It is an important moment in the film
and one wonderfully portrayed.
What we see, and what I appreciated in this film is the humanity
and conviction of the man Martin Luther. He has serious issues with
the relics being offered by the church, relics that included for
example 18,000 nails that were used to nail Christ to the cross,
and thorns that had been in the crown of thorns and used to pierce
the head of Christ. Luther's passion on these issues comes about
after he observes and feels compassion for individuals who purchase
indulgences from the church to obtain salvation for themselves and/or
their loved ones. Luther knows that salvation comes only through
Christ and has issues early on with the teachings of the church.
Other issues that Luther takes on is the importance of getting the
Word of God into the hands of everyday people in language they can
understand. It was this facet of the movie that most moved me.
The work of Luther to get the Bible into the hands of everyday people
and the recollection of the time that the Bible was not readily
available makes this movie not only worth seeing, but in many ways
a must for individuals to see. The reality of it is that people,
including Luther went through a great deal of persecution and even
death to get God's Word into the hands of people so they could interpret
the Bible for themselves. This significant fact regarding Luther
is non-deniable and in many ways, he was an original Rebel fighting
for the rights of the common person.
Luther was avid about certain facts like not including James in
the Holy Scripture, another fact that the movie conveniently ignores.
After seeing the movie, while not agreeing with his belief, you
can understand his reasoning for being so insistent that the book
of James not be included in the text of Scripture. With all of the
inconsistencies in the church at the time, and its emphasis on earning
ones way into Heaven, one can better understand why it was that
Luther was so concerned that the message of Christ's Grace was emphasized.
Grace and relationship with God was essential for all people, Luther
fought for that understanding at a great cost, and this movie helps
illustrate those facts and realities.
From a movie making perspective, the reality is that too much of
a time period was covered and as a result character development
and plot suffer. Without an understanding of the role of Luther
in history, one seeing this movie might easily get lost. I will
also disagree with many recommending that smaller children not see
this movie. The truth is that there are some graphic scenes in the
movie but for many those were not scenes but realities in life.
While much of that persecution was at the hands of the "Church"
and at one point of time, actually endorsed by Luther, the messages
of our own nasty history and the honesty in covering that will do
more harm if we cover it up than it will if we discuss it from an
early onset, even with children. While I would not recommend the
movie for smaller children, they will get bored; I would recommend
it for those who can discuss the issues. I have known of some 10
year olds who can and then I have known of some 20 year olds who
can't. The topics and messages are definitely worthy of discussion
One example of how character development suffers is in the lack
of development with several characters that I would have personally
liked to have known more about and who were portrayed in a powerful
way. Those characters included Grete and Hanna, a mother and daughter
who lived in poverty and were a part of the Wittenberg Church, as
well as his wife, Katerina yon Bore, played beautifully for what
short time she is on screen by Claire Cox. I must also comment on
the character Prince Fredrick the Wise played brilliantly by Sir
Peter Ustinov. Here we see a character that despite his own beliefs
allows himself to be moved by conviction and truth. In many ways
this character had the most to loose by Luther's teachings yet was
the first and most willing to give up the things that he held in
high regard. While I have been wrong in the past about my predictions
Ustinov will at the very least have to be considered for a supporting
role come award time.
The truth is that while the film takes some liberties, it is still
worth seeing for the historical relevance. The truth is that I don't
believe it has enough to draw the interest of those outside of the
Christian community, and that is a shame. It is a shame because
Luther is a well-done movie with enough historical accuracy that
we can easily see how much of an impact he had on our world. We
see his passion, his madness, and his convictions. We see a human
who was led by a risen Christ and was thus able to make a difference
to the world around him, all of his shortcomings and all.
On a scale of 1 -10 Luther is a deserving, religious, 7.
David's Interview with Producer Dennis
Grete (Doris Prusova) and Hanna (Maria Simon) members of the congregation
Grete (Doris Prusova) under the watchful eye of her mother Hanna (Maria
Simon) attempts to walk to Luther (Joseph Fiennes).
Luther (Joseph Fiennes) discovers children killed in a church during
the Peasants' War.
Luther (Joseph Fiennes) prays with other pilgrims on the Scala Sancta
(Holy Stairs) in Rome.
Luther (Joseph Fiennes) is confronted by Father Staupitz (Bruno Ganz)
after arguing with Rome's representatives.
Philip Melancthon (Lars Rudolph) with the princes of Germany before
Emperor Charles V.
Luther's protege Philip Melancthon (Lars Rudolph).
Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (Torben Liebrecht).
Court secretary George Spalatin (Benjamin Sadler).
Professor Andreas Carlstadt (Jochen Horst).
ON THIS FILM
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