Provide a summary of the movie Luther (Eric Till, 2003) starring Joseph Fiennes.

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This very interesting movie, with odd contradictions to its quality in inadequate crowd extras and costumes, begins with Luther as a self-flagellating monk immersed in contrition, progresses to a now educated monk who is a professor at Wittenberg University (the same university Shakespeare sends Hamlet to in Hamlet), and ends with a married Luther writing a German vernacular translation of the Christian Bible.

All who study the Protestant Reformation know what Martin Luther is most noted for, yet in this well-envisioned script and film, we see Luther in several life capacities and dealing with several dramatic life situations. As a monk at a peaceful monastery, a position he sought after a promise made to God if he would only be spared death in a lightning storm, he is tormented by his perception of his sinful nature (wrong-thinking and wrong-doing self). This is so much so that his mentor and fellow monk sends him on a mission for the monastery to Rome, for the purpose of forgetting about himself for a time, where he is exposed to the thriving business of selling Pope's Indulgences (deliverance from sins for a fee) and Saint's Blessings for a fee. Recognizing a deeply wrong incongruence between these market places and true spirituality, Luther returns home. After discussing his perceptions and questions with his mentor, he is sent to be educated at Wittenberg University.

Now an educated professor at Wittenberg, Luther lectures ironically and satirically about the absurdity of Indulgences and Blessings for-a-Fee. After his fame (and infamy, as he irritates Prince Frederick and the Pope) grows, Luther writes and publicly pronounces his 95 Theses, which are religious challenges, by nailing a hand-scripted copy of them to the door of Wittenburg Church, with the introductory proclamation of an intended open debate of the 95 theses:

Reverend Father Martin Luther, ... intends to defend the following statements and to dispute on them in that [church] place. ... those who cannot be present and dispute with him orally shall do so in their absence by letter.

Pope Leo X considers excommunicating Luther and, in due consideration, summons Luther to appear before him and the Cardinals at Augsburg. Given a chance to recant, Luther makes his case firmly in defense of his Theses. Given a second chance at Worms, he still defends his Theses. Kidnapped by Prince Frederick to save him from the Pope's tribunal, Luther is protected by Frederick at Wartburg Castle.

In response to Luther's excommunication (expulsion from the Catholic Church), the people of Wittenberg begin tearing the church down and rioting, causing much horrible suffering into which Luther intervenes in disguise as a knight. The film ends with the death of Pope Leo and with Emperor Charles' appeal to restored order. While Luther presents a German vernacular translation of the Bible, the Princes of Germany speak up for the truth of Luther's 95 Theses and the protestant's reformation of Catholic doctrine is born and is now known as the Protestant Reformation.

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