Denial

Denial

(2016)

The whole world knows the holocaust happened. Now she needs to prove it.

Courtroom drama from the director of The Bodyguard, starring Academy Award-winner Rachel Weisz as a writer being sued for libel by a renowned Holocaust denier (Timothy Spall).... More

"David Irving (Spall), once a well-regarded military historian, courted controversy when he began citing the pseudoscientific Leuchter report as proof that the Holocaust was a hoax. Lipstadt (Weisz) explicitly labelled him a denier in her 1993 book Denying the Holocaust, and he sued her for libel. But since the burden of proof in English libel law lies with the accused, it bizarrely fell to Lipstadt and her legal team to demonstrate that one of the defining events of the century did indeed transpire." (Toronto International Film Festival)Hide

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Flicks Review

How do you make a film with the Holocaust at its heart without hammering the viewer with all that weight and solemnity? Get David Hare to write the screenplay. The makers of this splendid film are also helped along by the fact that this is really an old-fashioned courtroom saga, a dramatisation of the real life legal battle between David Irving (the infamous Hitler apologist) and respected historian Deborah E. Lipstadt, who ripped Irving a new one and labeled him a ‘denier’ in her 1993 book Denying the Holocaust. Irving wanted a public debate but Debs wasn’t a fan of providing the oxygen. Desperate for a duel, Irving sued her for libel.... More

Irving was an early adopter of fake news, an historical troll and intellectual bully. He's played here by the old master Timothy Spall who pulls out yet another mesmerising performance as he channels the self-styled historian into something almost human and slightly comical, though he doesn’t really get to stretch his legs. He shares, and then loses, the limelight to the wonderful Tom Wilkinson, who plays the superhero of the piece, a wine-sozzled, ciggie-smoking, and sandwich-scoffing barrister of the Rumpole of the Bailey old school. It’s a plum role and Wilkinson guzzles it like Beaujolais.

Rachel Weisz finds the prickly heart of Lipstadt, replete with a Queens accent, even if she’s effectively silenced as the defence team pursues a tactic that puts Irving on trial and forbids Lipstadt or any Auschwitz survivors from testifying. Lipstadt wants to attack the case all guns blazing, she wants American balls-out bluster, but the reserved Brits convince her otherwise. That Brit/Yank divide is mined amusingly throughout, with Lipstadt telling a stateside colleague that the judge (that master of the quivering upper lip, Alex Jennings) looked “like something straight out of Masterpiece Theatre”.Hide


The Peoples' Reviews

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BY cinemusefilm superstar

The nature of truth and the power to manipulate it have long been contentious themes in history and cinema. The outstanding film Denial (2016) resonates loudly in today’s post-truth world where power is often used to create alternate realities. It is a film that portrays denialism as a dangerous and perverse form of moral corruption, something that may be contained but can never be eliminated.

The story is based on the celebrated 1996 legal case fought between eminent academic Deborah... More Lipstadt, an American professor of Holocaust Studies, and David Irving, a historian of Nazi Germany. A book published by Lipstadt (Rachael Weisz) accuses Irving (Timothy Spall) of being a Holocaust denier and falsifier of history, and Irving sues for defamation. In the British justice system, the burden of proof is on the accused so Lipstadt must prove that the Holocaust did happen to establish that Irving is a liar. She engages a top legal team led by senior barrister Richard Rampton (Tom Wilkinson) who insists that neither Lipstadt or Holocaust survivors should present testimony against Irving because of his history of promoting himself by humiliating victims. Lipstadt and her lawyers visit Auchwitz to gather evidence of the existence of gas chambers but the bulk of the story is played out on the legal battlefield at court.

Modern audiences are desensitised to the atrocities of war. It is glorified in movies and video games and feeds the entertainment and amusement industry. Today’s filmmakers struggle to find ways of remembering the Holocaust without alienating viewers. The extraordinary Son of Saul (2016) takes audiences right into the flames, whereas Denial (2016) explores the moral issues in a courtroom. In reality, this was a high-stakes legal battle that could have potentially delegitimised the entire history of the Holocaust. It is an outstanding achievement that this film can capture the tension and the burden of moral responsibility carried by the Lipstadt legal team.

The casting and characterisation in this film are brilliant. Rachael Weisz’s American brashness presents a stark cultural contrast with the conservative traditions of British justice. She convincingly portrays a principled academic and scholar of truth, showing restrained emotion beneath her loathing for Irving’s anti-Semitism. Tom Wilkinson gives a masterful portrait of wisdom and conviction, while Timothy Spall plays Irving with subdued Satanic malice. The other support cast make up a strong ensemble. The narrative unfolds at a sweeping pace and the script is both intelligent and instructive in the legal nuance of courtroom manoeuvers. The footage of Auchwitz is emotionally harrowing and the film treats its subject matter with utmost reverence.

If you want light entertainment, do not see this film. It is for audiences prepared to confront the dark side of humanity as well as those interested in the intricacies and triumphs of the British legal system. But more than that, it’s an essay on the nature of truth in history and it exposes the moral abhorrence of those who manipulate facts to suit their prejudices. It is also a warning that manipulators of truth will always be among us.Hide


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The Press Reviews

  • It's frustrating to see a movie that's so perfect for the age in which we live and yet bungles its narrative so completely. Full Review

  • A compelling, true courtroom drama touches on the lingering pain of the Holocaust. Full Review

  • Patches of it are so ludicrously hammy it plays like one of those unbearably corny fake films teased at the beginning of Tropic Thunder. Full Review

  • The crucial thing missing is what should be the essence of a courtroom drama: our immersion in how Lipstadt's lawyers stake out their strategy. Full Review

  • The court hearings are almost unbelievable and yet are lifted, verbatim, from the records. Full Review

  • Because Hare's script grapples with serious themes and singular events whose ramifications are still being felt, it is effective when it counts. Full Review

  • You wonder if the material would have been more effective as a courtroom procedural adapted for the stage. Full Review

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