Retelling the story of Martin Luther, 500 years on

Five hundred years ago this month, Martin Luther, a German friar and university lecturer, posted a protest against church corruption on the door of a church in Wittenberg, northern Germany. His protest was in the form of 95 theses – or short arguments – many of them the size of a tweet. To everyone’s surprise, Luther’s list was quickly distributed and read throughout Germany, and helped spark the Reformation, which split the church in the West, changed the face of Europe, and helped shape the modern world.

The 500th anniversary of this world-altering event has been marked this year with books, lectures and other events, and now the story of Martin Luther has been retold in a new historical drama, Reformation, which has just been screened by the BBC. The film is in two parts, each 90 minutes long, and can be seen on BBC iPlayer for the next 28 days: see Part 1 and Part 2 here. Reformation, starring Maximilian Bruckner as Martin Luther (pictured above), is a German production, with English subtitles.

image from Reformation episode 2

The film follows the story of Luther as he risks first his academic reputation, and then his life, as he is forced to defend his actions before powerful bishops and the Holy Roman Emperor. The drama shows how the newly-invented printing press helped spread Luther’s ideas, and how the fragmented politics of the German states made it possible for Luther to survive, even though he had been condemned as a heretic.

It also explores several of Luther’s key ideas, including freedom of conscience, the role of ‘faith alone’ in a believer’s relationship with God, and the importance of translating the Bible into the language of the people, to give them direct access to the scriptures and understand their faith for themselves.

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