Ministry An authentic Luther

Martin Luther: The Idea that Changed the World

By John Potter

For filmmakers Steve Boettcher and Mike Trinklein, the 500th anniversary of the Reformation offered a creative opportunity for which they were uniquely positioned.

As the duo considered the fact that the anniversary provided a moment when the broader culture would take note of the Reformation, they realized that they had both the strong relationship with PBS (Boettcher + Trinklein Television produced the Pioneers of Television documentary series for the distributor) and the experience in telling stories of faith (Come Follow Me, Road to Emmaus) necessary to create a new Martin Luther documentary that could reach a wide audience.

“The question was not whether there would be a new film on Luther, but who would make it,” Trinklein said. When he and Boettcher pitched their take on the oft-told story of Luther’s life, they emphasized their desire to

focus on a genuine representation of the reformer. “For someone less familiar with Luther, it would be easy to paint him as a superhero or super villain. Our goal was to portray him closer to the authentic person he was. ... We wanted to reveal the nuances in his personality that made Luther, well, Luther,” Trinklein said.

When the filmmakers began work on Martin Luther: The Idea that Changed the World, they approached the iconic figure in a way that differentiated them from others who might have taken on the project. “First, we rejected the common perspective that Luther was solely a cultural or political hero,” Trinklein said. “At the core, Luther was concerned with the relationship between God and people. That’s the center of our film because that was the center for Luther.”

As Trinklein and Boettcher strove for authenticity, they created a script in which all of Luther’s dialogue is taken verbatim from his writings and speeches. Similarly, the film was shot entirely in European castles, monasteries and ancient churches. Pádraic Delaney (The Tudors) portrays Luther, and Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey) narrates.

The Idea that Changed the World aired on PBS in September, but congregations can book screenings of the film at

Jerry Kulp, pastor of St. Peter Evangelical Lutheran in Bethlehem, Pa., organized a screening for his congregation that included a discussion led

46 OCTOBER 2017

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