2006-03-30 12:41

In real life, Luther was fat and rather unattractive. In the movie, he's played by the beautiful, slim Joseph Fiennes. Yep, this is a movie, not to be taken literally. Which means it should be entertaining, right?

Luther makes a real attempt to hold your attention. Genuinely funny moments in witty speeches by Luther, when he confronts corruption in his lectures and the subject matter itself, keep the film going and will have you sincerely cheering the hero on. Unfortunately, the film is choppy, and many other scenes are so sincere that they're actually embarrassing, not moving. In the brief romantic subplot of his relationship with his ex-nun wife: the courtly dialogue is positively squirm-inducing.

Unfortunately, the production, which is incredibly lush and costumed, is misjudged in what it emphasises. A German/American co-production, Luther is meticulous in it's costumed detail, taking full advantage of the romantic beauty of the catholic religious services, and the shock value of the brutality of the Reformation. But what really makes a quality production? Not just the historical accuracy of the costumes and setting, but also the acting. And oddities abound. The main characters speak hot potato English (already odd, as the movie is set in Germany), the many minor parts are dubbed, and not terribly well. German accents would have made some sense and a bit more care could have ensured smoother dubbing.

The result is that this film feels rather long and laboured in parts. Perhaps this is due to an attempt to tell Luther's story as faithfully as possible. The result is that it feels like it's made not for theatres but for the history classroom, as a way of getting kids who won't read their textbooks through the syllabus.

Educational can be good, though, so if the subject matter interests you and you are able to deal with a fair amount of violence and bloodshed, Luther's worth checking out. You might want to get it on video though, so you can break for a snooze, a cup of coffee or a quick prayer thanking God for the FF button.

- Jean Barker

What other critics thought:

It's a perfect movie to show a church group or for teaching in a teen group.
- Holly McClure at

"Luther" is a reasonably entertaining picture about a subject, religion, seldom regarded as a box-office draw.
- Jeffrey Westhoff, Northwest Herald

As the film veers uncertainly between meticulous historical recapitulation and shameless hokum, it brings enough characters to populate a mini-series.
- Stephen Holden, New York Times

Martin Luther, a 16th-century priest, led the Christian Reformation. This biopic begins with him becoming a catholic monk, and tells how he confronted the corrupt and profiteering structures of the Catholic church of the time, was charged with heresy for his defiance of Rome and of his fight to make the scriptures available to the common person.

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