Filmed in Wiesbaden, West Germany, this month’s movie, Martin Luther (Pichel, 1953), received Oscar nominations in 1954 for Best Cinematography, Black and White, and Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Black and White.
As one of the producers of this movie, the Lutheran Church in America’s presence suggests a protestant bias, although we expect an unbiased historical accounting from its statement as part of the credits at the beginning of the movie,
This dramatization of a decisive moment in human history is the result of careful research of facts and conditions in the 16th century as reported by historians of many faiths.
Often described as “a humble German monk,” Dr. Martin Luther (1483 – 1546) was also a gifted scholar, having attained the highest level of university education. He served as Professor of Theology at the University of Wittenberg for his entire career, and as a Catholic Augustinian Priest until his excommunication by Pope Leo X in 1521. Continue reading Dr. Martin Luther: Persuader–and Not Simply a Humble German Monk→
On what I imagine to be a breezy autumn day in the year 1517 in the quaint town of Wittenberg, Germany, Martin Luther walked up to a chapel with a hammer, some nails and placards. Once he had posted the “95 Theses” for all to see, he surely pondered the consequences of his boldness as he walked back home. Settling in at his humble abode, he must have felt increasing confidence for he proceeded to write more papers to express his beliefs that the Catholic church was corrupt.
Meanwhile, Luther may have gone about his daily life with no inkling that his criticism of the church was creating such a buzz that, within a matter of weeks, his message would roar into each village, town, and city in Christian Europe. Considering that this was the 16th century, the speed at which Luther’s message spread is no less astounding than the instantaneous sending and receiving of text messages today. Continue reading Luther’s Social Media: Essential to Reformation→
In the Year of Our Lord 1517, Dr. Martin Luther hammered a note, popularly called “The 95 Theses,” on the door of a chapel in Wittenberg, Germany. He might as well have taken that hammer and shattered the earth for the effect that this paper, which Luther entitled “Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences,” had on mankind. So great was the aftershock of this event that its ripples reach us five centuries later, and will likely continue to impact future generations for as long as humans exist.
This event was a metaphoric earthquake waiting to happen. From medieval times (5th-15th century), the formidable Catholic Church dominated Europe and by Luther’s time (1483-1546) was steeped in corruption, which included the selling of indulgences to absolve parishioner’s sins. Rome’s magnificent St. Peter’s Basilica was built on funds raised from such practices (Justice, 2011). Continue reading Not Everyone is Celebrating the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation→
A cult organization proclaimed tax-exempt in the US in 1993 (Levathan, 1993, May 15), the Church of Scientology appeals to people for any number of possible reasons, but I’ll name two. Its main appeal may be that it promises ultimate truth that will conform one into a supreme being. Second, the Church of Scientology demands a significant amount of time and money.
That second reason may also be part of why members stay. In some cases, it’s also because Scientology owns their secrets.
Scientologists Possess Ultimate Truth
Scientology members believe that they can possess the “ultimate truth,” thus become godlike, in control of their lives, and “have it made.” According to the documentary film, Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief (Gibney, 2015), this idea is offered to members through the structures of “The Bridge,” a hierarchy of eight levels, where at each level a member strives towards the next for the sake of rising in prestige and becoming more godlike. Thus the various principles of Scientology are revealed piecemeal to members as they reach one level and move on to the next. Continue reading How the Church of Scientology Appeals to Otherwise-Sane People and Why They Stay→
The story of Thomas More, who stood up to King Henry VIII when the King rejected the Roman Catholic Church to obtain a divorce and remarriage.—IMDb, A Man for All Seasons (1966).
A Man for All Seasons
Date of Release:
6 Oscars, 4 Golden Globes, and multiple others
Paul Scofield as Thomas More
Robert Shaw as Henry VIII
Orson Welles as Cardinal Wolsey
READ the following notes to enhance the movie-watching experience:
The movie takes place in England in the 16th century during the last seven years of Sir Thomas More’s life.
Director Zinnemann spotlights the River Thames for its consistent presence in English history. In the movie, the river is the link between King Henry VIII’s Castle and Sir Thomas More’s residence.
Zinnemann struggled with how to portray an ideological disagreement in a movie, a big challenge for a director. Choosing not to indulge in pyrotechnics (special effects, visual fireworks, etc.), he relied on accomplished and talented actors to meet his goal.
Knowledge of this period in English history helps to understand the lengthy discourses in the movie. For quick research beforehand, check this source: Wikipedia (Henry VIII of England, 2017, Nov 01).
Many consider Sir Thomas More as the greatest Englishman of the era—a man who would not compromise his principles under any circumstance (Thomas More, 2017, Nov 2). It has been said that men and women like Sir Thomas More come around only once in a century. Another example is Mahatma Gandhi.
“TV is going away.” my Dad exclaimed over lunch at Pasta Vino recently. He was proven right. Though my mother had given me a DVD of A Man for All Seasons, I balked at the inconvenience of opening the DVD, figuring out how to get the DVD machine to operate within our increasingly complicated systems of Netflix, Amazon Streaming, and DirecTV.
For the first time, it occurred me to consider how few DVDs my family watches these days. I took the lazy way out and paid $2.99 to “rent” A Man for All Seasons on Amazon video and watched it with the comfort of my Kindle Fire. I could not have been more content! It was today’s version of a “Blockbuster Night.”
The superior acting performances of Paul Scofield as Sir Thomas More, Orson Welles as Cardinal Wolsey, and Robert Shaw as King Henry VIII were simply mesmerizing. It is the acting that makes this movie a timeless classic. A Man For All Seasons does not need elaborate visual effects, for the acting and dialog themselves stand out and shine like a sparkling piece of diamond jewelry worn on its own rather than clashing with too many other pieces.
I read and skimmed plenty of reviews before watching the film to get a feel for the critics’ reception to it. Not surprisingly, the critics in the 1960’s were overwhelmingly positive about A Man for All Seasons, which earned six Academy Awards. Today’s movie reviewers (how easy it is to be a critic these days) were harsh. The common thread among today’s reviewers is that the film is one-dimensional, boring and resembles a high school play. It makes me wonder if viewers today recognize truly great acting when they see it? I struggle to think of any actor today who could pull off the part of Sir Thomas More with such convincing grace.
However, today’s viewers have likely seen or been exposed to the following:
1. The Tudors – (2007 – 2010) a popular TV series on Henry VIII starring the very handsome Jonathan Rhys Myers–who does not even have red hair!
2. The Other Boleyn Girl (2008) – an entertaining and page-turning book about the drama, romance, and intricacies of King Henry the VIII’s romances with the Boleyn sisters. It made its run through hundreds of book clubs and made Phillipa Gregory a wealthy author. The book’s raging success turned it into a movie starring the well-known actors Scarlett Johannsson, Natalie Portman and Eric Bana.
3. Numerous documentaries on Discovery/History channels on Henry VIII.
Thus, it appears that A Man for All Seasons is consciously or unconsciously compared with the more modern material when viewed for the first time today. Most people are familiar with the story and could perceive A Man for All Seasons as outdated by today’s average viewer of movies. However, Robert Zinneman’s film is a timeless classic that should never fade away with the passage of time.
Insight for film groups, critics, scholars, and fans