Luther: The Movie

Okay, I saw it. It was a two hour movie and so the story was needfully rushed. The Diet of Worms consisted of Eck saying “Recant” and Luther saying “I need more time” and then they came back and Eck once again saying “Recant” and then Luther’s famous reply. If you know anything about the Reformation, you know what I mean by “rushed”. The movie hit most of the historical facts and got them pretty much in order with only mild fabrications. As a historical movie I would say it was pretty good. In retrospect, I think I liked it because I knew the story going in. What the movie didn’t say, I said to myself. Before you go see it, read (or reread) Here I Stand, it’ll help. A lot.

On a more theological basis, I was somewhat disappointed. The movie begins with Luther’s pledge to become a monk and his misery trying to live under the law. He feared God and His wrath and had no way to escape it. What we miss was Luther uttering “The just shall live by faith” even once. The bulk of the debate and dissention was over indulgences. That is fine in the beginning, but as the Reformation continued the battle moved to the doctrine of justification. That was the doctrine Martin Luther said the Church stands or falls on and it is the logical extension of a battle begun over indulgences. The doctrine of justification never comes up in the movie. How that is possible is beyond me. Though Luther argues with Cardinal Cajetan briefly in the film, we never get to hear the other debates. I suppose that is because most people wouldn’t understand what was being argued for and against. It was an unfortunate but understandable omission whereas justification was not.

Back to the movie as a movie. Joseph Fiennes did a good job of portraying Luther in his brilliance and his madness. Luther suffered from depression throughout his life and Fiennes pulled it off well. Alfred Molina was a very good Tetzel. A firey preacher and peddler of indulgences. The movie is 121 minutes and that was about the right length. Any longer and it’d have become tedeaous (that and they’d’ve had to deal with more weighty theological issues than they did!) For the life of me I can’t understand why it got a PG-13 rating. There was a scene of Luther walking though murdered peasents, but even that was pretty mild by contemporary standards.

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