When we say about the best movie in the year of 2003, the first thing that came in my mind is Luther. The beauty of Luther Film is its drama and its casting. Joseph Fiennes did what he does best as the angst-riddled Luther, playing a complex and haunted character that filled the screen even in his quietest moments. The supporting cast of Luther Film was also fabulous, particularly the merry-in-the-face-of-danger performances by Bruno Ganz and Peter Ustinov.
These are the cast of Luther Film.
Luther Film is a biography of Martin Luther, the 16th-century priest who led the Christian Reformation and opened up new possibilities in exploration of faith. The Luther Film begins with Luther’s vow to become a monk, and continues through his struggles to reconcile his desire for sanctification with his increasing abhorrence of the corruption and hypocrisy pervading the Church’s hierarchy. He is ultimately charged with heresy and must confront the ruling cardinals and princes, urging them to make the Scriptures available to the common believer and lead the Church toward faith through justice and righteousness
Martin Luther was the moral force of the Reformation, the priest who defied Rome, nailed his 95 Theses to the castle door and essentially founded the Protestant movement. He must have been quite a man. I doubt if he was much like the uncertain, tremulous figure in “Luther,” who confesses, “Most days, I’m so depressed I can’t even get out of bed.” It is unlikely audiences will attend this film for an objective historical portrait; its primary audience is probably among believers who seek inspiration. What they will find is the Ralph Nader of his time, a scold who has all his facts lined up to prove the Church is unsafe at any speed.
Though centuries of discontent had set the stage, Luther, through little more than the force of his willful intellect, instituted the Reformation that ended centuries of uncontested Catholic authority in Europe, beginning the process by simply nailing his famous 95 Theses to the door of a church in a distant pocket of Germany in 1517. Not that that was his intention. A man tormented by his own perceived lapses in piety, he abhorred failings elsewhere, and let that anger snowball into a revolution.
The Best of Luther Film
Luther film follows the highlights of Luther’s life, from his early days as a law student, through his conversion during a lightning storm, to his days as a bright young Augustinian monk who catches the eye of his admiring superior, Johann von Staupitz (Bruno Ganz).
He is sent to Rome, where he’s repelled by the open selling of indulgences (Alfred Molina plays a church retailer with slogans like Burma-Shave: “When a coin in the coffer rings, a soul from Purgatory springs”). He’s also not inspired by the sight of the proud Pope Leo XII (Uwe Ochsenknecht), galloping off to the hunt, and when he returns to Germany, it is with a troubled conscience that eventually leads to his revolt.
One thing the Luther Film leaves obscure is the political climate that made it expedient for powerful German princes to support the rebel monk against their own emperor and the power of Rome. In scenes involving Frederick the Wise (Peter Ustinov), we see him using Luther as a way to define his own power, and we see bloody battles fought between Luther’s supporters and forces loyal to the Church. But Luther stands aside from these uprisings, is appalled by the violence, and, we suspect, if he had it all to do over again, would think twice.
That’s the peculiar thing about Fiennes’ performance: He never gives us the sense of a Martin Luther filled with zeal and conviction. Luther seems weak, neurotic, filled with self-doubt, unwilling to embrace the implications of his protest. When he leaves the priesthood and marries the nun Katharina von Bora (Claire Cox), where is the passion that should fill him? Their romance is treated like an obligatory stop on the biographical treadmill, and although I am sure Katharina told Martin many tender things, I doubt one of them was “We’ll make joyous music together.” This Martin Luther is simply not a joyous music kind of guy.
The most fun of Luther Film comes from the performance of grand old Sir Peter as Friedrich, who treasures his collection of sacred relics but sweeps them all aside after Luther casts doubt on their worth and authenticity (Luther has a funny speech pointing out that many saints left behind more body parts than they started out with). Ustinov here reminded a little me of his great Nero in “Quo Vadis,” collecting his tears in tiny crystal goblets — a big boy, playing with the toys of power.
See Luther translate the New Testament into German! Wonder at his awkward courtship of Katharina von Bora!–and it seems unlikely that crowds really shouted “Luther’s back!” with the same inflection as basketball fans cheering their favorite player. Luther film brims with good intentions, but even less important religious scholars than Luther know what kind of road those pave.