Animation about Luther
The film was prepared by the Evangelical Church in Hungary in connection with the celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.
Viewers gathered in the Muranów cinema were welcomed by the head of the Evangelical-Augsburg Church in Poland Bishop Jerzy Samiec and the Ambassador of Hungary to Poland Orsolya Zsuzsanna Kovács. The meeting was hosted by actress Paulina Dulla. The audience saw three episodes of the show: „Pojedynek na słowa” [“A battle of words”], „Łamanie chleba” [“Breaking bread”] and „Miłość i śmierć” [“Love and death”]. Screenings of individual episodes alternated with interviews with invited guests.
The Hungarian director Zsolt Richly took part in the screening and said that the idea of making a film about Luther had been maturing in him since 1995. Zsolt Richly thought about creating a series of films for children, showing the achievements of the Reformer's life, although he had never directed a film with dialogues before. Bishop Tamas Fabiny from the Evangelical Church in Hungary helped to implement the project. The director emphasized that it was important for him to create a product that would appeal to contemporary youth.
János Lackfi was asked to write the script. The director also invited several of his students to collaborate on the animation. In search for ideas, the creators went on a journey following in the footsteps of Luther. The director found inspiration in woodcuts in Luther's house in Wittenberg, which refer to the times in which the Reformer lived. The film is addressed to audiences over 12 years of age. The goal was not to make a single full-length film, but 10 separate stories.
The animated series "The Life of Martin Luther", which consists of ten episodes, presents the life of the former monk and later theologian and reformer whose works and theology consolidated the foundations for a renewal of the Church. It shows Luther's childhood, his early years at the monastery, and the years of conflict until the birth of the Reformation. It also presents the most important historical events and characteristics of the Church in the 16th century.
The screenwriter, János Lackfi, describes his work on the film as follows: It was supposed to be a journey to a different time and an attempt to overcome certain linguistic challenges - a kind of modern cuisine based on traditional flavours. And then the story went under my skin. When I accompanied Luther in his efforts to raise children, my sixth child was born. My eldest son and daughter got married in a blink of an eye, and suddenly, within a year and a half, I had three grandchildren. Working on the tenth and final episode of Luther's life, I had to stand by and watch my father struggle with death. (…)The whole existence and all its drastic changes affected this film, which became a part of my everyday life.
The Polish version of the film was made on the initiative of the Chancellery of the Leading Bishop of the Church. It is the seventh version in Europe, after the Hungarian, German, English, Finnish, Lithuanian and Portugese. It was produced by Wydawnictwo Warto, and directed by Jerzy Latos, creator and founder of the Teatr Dobrego Serca in Warsaw. Polish actors and actresses were invited to cooperate in the project, including Tomasz Kozłowicz as Martin Luther (his voice is well known from such productions as the Polish version of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” or “Pocahontas”) and Maciej Makowski (“Single’s Planet”), Zbigniew Dziduch (“Ice Age”), Dariusz Kowalski (“Plebania”), Kamila Bujalska (“Bodo”), Paulina Dulla (“Women of Mafia”), Maciej Wilewski (“Letters to Santa"), Michał Głowacki ("Hotel Transylvania") and Maciej Maziarz as the voice of Luther as a child.
During the meeting, the director of the Polish version thanked the Hungarian artists, emphasized that the production has a unique character and that work on the Polish version was a unusual challenge. Jerzy Latos said he was happy that the film about Martin Luther was not directed against anyone, that it was neither an attack nor a defence. It is a friendly and kind film that focuses on a man, a specific man, Martin Luther, his path to God and with God, his relationship with Jesus and the Word of God. The director would like the film to encourage others to take up such a relationship with Jesus.
The series is perfect for educational purposes. It can be used for non-commercial use during meetings, history lessons and speaks both to teenagers and adults. All episodes are available at www.luter.pl
The theological content of the film and its possible reception by the Roman Catholic community was discussed during the meeting by Professor Jerzy Sojka, a lecturer at the Christian Theological Academy, and Dr. Sebastian Duda, author of a book on Luther in Polish “Reformacja. Rewolucja Lutra” ("Reformation. Luther’s Revolution"). The interview was hosted by the editor of the ekumenizm.pl portal, Dr. Dariusz Bruncz.
According to Professor Sojka, the film can be somewhat challenging for the viewer, as it requires him or her to decipher symbols and messages appearing in particular episodes, referring to many theological motives connected with Martin Luther. For example the depiction of Cardinal Thomas Cajetan, who is supposed to show one of the aspects of Lutheran thinking in which the life of a Christian is a struggle against doubt and temptation. After watching ten episodes, one can discover, among other things, that the devil returns in the form of doubt, and this confrontation with doubt is one of the keys, which allows us to read and be inspired by Luther even today. It is worth noting that the series was not created as a response to polemical statements about Luther, but it can be an opportunity to talk about how to interpret the Reformation in contemporary times. Another topic for discussion is how medieval theology shaped Luther's thinking.
Dr. Duda pointed out that Roman Catholics in Poland still know little about Luther, which sometimes complicates mutual relations. Even the anniversary of the Reformation did not extend their knowledge. Due to several unfavourable publications, it even deepened the negative stereotypes about Luther to some extent. Dr. Duda would like to see the series reach Roman Catholics because it could serve as a cognitive shock.
Mr Bruncz noted that in the series Luther used word mercy several times, which is also used by Pope Francis today, and Dr. Duda added that this could trigger that cognitive shock. Such language, especially in Poland, where the cult of Divine Mercy is practiced, may be close to Catholics, because Luther, as Dr. Duda states, speaks about God's mercy in a very similar way. The context presented in the series may inspire Roman Catholics, since the description of the institutional Church in the film may be associated with the contemporary institutional crisis.
Kinga Marjatta Pap from the Evangelical Church in Hungary was also present at the screening and shared her impressions about the preparation of the film. She also announced that the Hungarian Church had prepared educational materials for various age groups. It is also planned to publish a comic book about Martin Luther with images from the film.
Patrons of the series were: the Hungarian Embassy in Warsaw, the Christian Theological Academy - Pedagogical Faculty, Ekumenizm.pl, Kino Muranów, Luteranie.pl, Miasto Dzieci.pl, Hungarian Cultural Institute, Qlturka.pl and Zwiastun Ewangelicki. The project was supported by the Lutheran World Federation and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Hungary.
The film can be viewed and downloaded at luter.pl
Zsolt Richly was born in 1941 in Sopron, Western Hungary. In 1959, he began his studies at the University of Applied Arts in Budapest, where in 1966 he received his Master's degree in directing and animation. For 34 years he worked for the Pannónia Film Studio, creating cartoons, TV series and feature animations. He also painted backgrounds for cartoons by famous animation directors Gyul Macskassy and Marcell Jankovics, illustrated books and organized original exhibitions. Since 1988 he has been teaching animation at the University of Art and Design, and since 2008 he has been an honorary member of the University.
János Lackfi was born in 1971 in Budapest. He is a writer, poet, translator and publisher. He studied Hungarian and French literature at the University of Eötvös Lorand and began doctoral studies in history of contemporary Hungarian literature. He has published many volumes of poetry, novels, literary translations and popular children's books. From 1996 to 2013 he taught at the Catholic University of Pázmány Péter. In 1999, he became the publisher of the world literature magazine Nagyvilág, and from 2000 to 2005, he ran the online literary website Dokk. In 2012, he published a satirical volume of essays on the identity of Hungarians (Milyenek a magyarok? - What are the Hungarians like?), which was a great success, followed by two more. He currently lives in Hungary, in Zsámbék.