|The dreadful cover|
|A good deal better|
But like books, you shouldn’t always judge a film by its packaging. Martin Luther was nominated for an Oscar, and is certainly among the best Christian films ever made.
Martin Luther gives a thorough overview of his life, from his tormented time in the monastery all the way to his marriage to an ex-nun. Niall MacGinnis’ brilliant portrayal of Luther captures the contradiction of the man – even as he stands before the Diet of Worms strong and defiant he is distraught and trembling.
Though there is nothing in the film that is graphic, some scenes are psychologically intense. On the one hand, I think that would just go over the heads of most children, but for some young sensitive sorts, Luther's emotional turmoil might be too much.
GOOD SOUND IS KEY
This is a black and white film, which is a mark against it in many minds. But if you're considering showing this to your class or to your family, here's the secret to helping them get into it: make the sound your priority! In a dialogue-driven film it's the sound, much more than the visuals, that really matters.
I still remember watching this with my Grade 6 class, years ago. The screen was small - minuscule by today's standards - but this big box TV had great speakers. There was no fuzziness, no straining to understand what was being said - we could all follow it. And after 30 minutes or so, we were all hooked.
HOW IT COMPARES TO OTHER LUTHER FILMS
There are quite a number of films about Martin Luther, with at least a half dozen dramas, and more than a dozen documentaries. The best known is probably the 2003 Luther that played in major theaters, and starred Joseph Fiennes (of Shakespeare in Love fame). It is a wonderful film (and in color!) but marred by an instance or two where God's name is taken in vain. As well, it focuses a little more on Luther's external struggles with the powers that be, and a little less on his own internal struggles. That makes for more action, but less of a theological focus. So the 1953 Martin Luther is the better educational film
There is also a 1974 Luther that is again marred by an instance or two of God's name being taken in vain (why do Christian films do that?) and which portrays Luther's action as being motivated more by arrogance than devotion. So, again, the 1953 version is superior.
This would make a great film for a dad and mom to share with the family this Reformation Day, and so long as the kids are 12 and up, and they are "forced" to give it a half hour ("No, you can't check your smartphone while watching this") it will grab them.
You can pick up a copy at Amazon.com by clicking here.
And check out the trailer below.