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Packed with important Christian history,
This review is from: Luther [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC] (DVD)
As religious biographies set to film go, "Luther" is among the best. Few serious directors have taken on the topic of Christian history since "The Ten Commandments." After the movie better informed about Martin Luther and the Reformation.
Although important parts of Luther's life, positions and views are glazed over or ignored, it serves to incite curiosity about his 95 Theses and the Augsburg Confession.
The difficulty with a film portrayal of one of Christian history's more influential figures is that the historical Martin Luther could not be captured into a couple of hours. It is just a movie, and is not supposed to address complex eternal questions.
Protestant Christians will bristle at the brief look at Luther's theology, and the emphasis on the politics. What else could a filmmaker do? Already, such a film was destined for a short life in the theaters, and the fact is true: much of the issues surrounding Luther stemmed from his reaction to politics.
Roman Catholics might be upset by the anti-Catholic slant. I do not think the film was meant to put Catholicism in a bad light as much as it was meant to show what events and concerns caused Luther to react. The movie was aptly titled "Luther" and not "The Beginning of the Reformation" or "The Great Religious Revolt."
Indulgences have never been one of Catholicism's honorable or defensible provisions. There is no telling of Luther's story without examining the abuses of men looking to profit from the fear and guilt of illiterate believers. A modern Catholic will rightly note that personal Scripture among the laity is now encouraged by Rome, and be frustrated as he acknowledges indulgences are still part of the present Catholic theology.
Lutherans will find the movie intriguing, realizing Luther's battle against Rome begot their own denomination. Coming back to the origin of the Lutheran faith will be exciting and educational.
Joseph Fiennes is believable, albeit a little wooden. His Luther will remind viewers of Jeremy Irons' character in "The Mission." He is noble, calm and steadfast. Like Irons' priest, Luther faces great adversity through his desire to follow Jesus Christ.
Luther comes across as a noble would-be martyr. He shows godly courage, and a few levels of depth. What is not shown are his own imperfections and inconsistencies. If this is all you know about Martin Luther, then you only know one small, if not important, side of him. Like St. Peter, like Deitrch Bonhoeffer, Luther had clear imperfections, yet he still stoof up for his beliefs.
When Luther writhes in angst against temptation and evil, he speaks angrily to Satan as would anyone to his most cursed enemy. Like C. S. Lewis' Wormwood in "The Screwtape Letters," we can taste the insidious, pervasive nature of Satan. The spiritual conflict endured by Luther is not the glamorized head-spinning of "The Exorcist," but shows that he was not merely fighting flesh and blood entities through academic arguments.
My recommendation of "Luther" is 100%. Sunday school, CCD and high school groups could watch it as fodder for discussion. This isn't for the "Adventures In Odyssey" or "Veggie Tales" crowd. My small group watched it, and discussed it comparing it with what we understood of Scripture. Could we stand as Luther stood for the defense of God's Word?
A solid companion to the movie is "Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther" by Roland Herbert Bainton. It is an excellent addition to church video libraries.