Thursday, October 18, 2012

Searching For the Real Martin Luther in the Movies

It's that time of year in which articles trickle out about the Reformation. A recent offering comes from David Steinmetz: Searching For the Real Martin Luther. The article focuses on the three major films about Luther. Most of you  are probably aware of the 1953 movie and the more recent 2003 version with Joseph Fiennes. There is though a third movie from the early 1970's. Steinmetz rightly points out that none of these movies captured the real Luther. In fact, if you were to watch all three back to back, you'd see three different Luther's.

 Of the three movies, the worst (in my opinion) is the early 70's film. For those of you with Netflix, you can stream it online. The movie is based on John Osborne's play. Osborne relied heavily on Erik Erikson's Young Man Luther, so this film (like the earlier play) attempts to capture Erikson's slant on the psychology of Luther. Osborne's play was taken apart some years earlier by Gordon Rupp: "John Osborne and the Historical Luther" (The Expository Times 1962; 73; 147). That article is worth tracking down and reviewing previous to watching the early 70's film. The last time I attempted to watch this film, I shut it off about half way through due to its interpretation of Luther.

The quintessential Luther movie is yet to be made. For those of you who plan on showing any of these movies at your church or youth group, etc. you need to keep in mind that these films are interpretations history. Each has its strengths and weaknesses. I know the 2003 film is shown in churches. I suggest at least taking a peak at these reviews.


Martin Yee said...


Thanks. I remember watching the 2003 Luther movie which was shown in a cinema in Singapore. Someone in the audience actually stood up and clapped when Luther utter those famous words "Here I stand.." etc. Well, no one mind, at least for that day. It is a pretty nice movie.


Tim Enloe said...

I liked the 2003 one because at that time I was deep into my studies of how the 200 or so years prior to the Reformation affected the scope and aims of the Reformation, and there were many scenes and lines in that movie that connected with my studies. Watching that version was a richer experience for me than seeing the early 70s one when all I knew about the Reformation was slogans like "Post tenebras, lux," "the Five Solas," and "Here I stand, I can do no other."

PeaceByJesus said...

Good to see you back posting. Missed your articles during your hiatus, and did not know where you went.