Historical dramas that take liberties with the source material and add fictional elements often do better as exciting cinema. Witness Gladiator, a movie that created its own hero while fitting his exploits into the framework of classic Roman history. Not so Luther, whose narrative elements don't dare go beyond canonical bounds of Martin Luther (not King, the original 1500s Martin Luther).

The first frames of this account suggest how the reformation of the church got started. In this initial sequence, bolts of lightning reveal a man running in a field in the darkness of night as though they were aimed at him. He splashes down into the mud and cries out, "Save me, St. Anne," vowing that, if she does him this small favor, he'll become a monk and devote his life to the church. Thus we are introduced to Martin Luther (Joseph Fiennes) as well as to the imagined landscape of his mind.

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