Sponsor

New Release Review - DENIAL

Dramatisation of the events surrounding the libel trial fought between Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt and Holocaust denier David Irving.






Review by Eric Hillis (@hilliseric)

Directed by: Mick Jackson

Starring: Rachel Weisz, Tom Wilkinson, Timothy Spall, Andrew Scott



Save for the odd minor dramatic clichéDenial is a restrained piece of storytelling, free of showy monologues and raised voices. It offers some very talented actors the chance to turn in subtle but effective performances.



There are two types of anti-semites - those who celebrate the Holocaust and those who deny it ever actually happened, writing it off as one of a multitude of conspiracy theories involving 'the Jews'. British 'historian' David Irving, played here by a slimmed down Timothy Spall, may have privately fallen in with the former camp, but he was certainly outspoken in his belief that the Holocaust was an elaborate scam pulled off by Zionists.


In the '90s, Irving filed a libel suit against the American Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt (played by British cinema's most high profile Jewish star, Rachel Weisz) and her publisher, Penguin Books. Mick Jackson's film, adapted by David Hare from Lipstadt's book History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier, dramatises the trial and the events surrounding it.

To its credit, save for the odd minor dramatic cliché (Lipstadt jogs when she can't sleep, a trait we've seen in everything from Shame to Sully), Denial is a restrained piece of storytelling, free of showy monologues and raised voices. It offers some very talented actors the chance to turn in subtle but effective performances. While Weisz and Spall are out front, the heart of the film comes from Tom Wilkinson as the quiet-spoken and highly professional lawyer Richard Rampton, whose British reserve initially rubs up against Lipstadt's bubbling over righteous fury.


The film has the confidence to allow Irving's beliefs to paint him in an antagonistic light rather than any sneering villainy. In the couple of scenes where we see him outside the court he's an outwardly personable figure, in contrast to Lipstadt, who while undoubtedly fighting in the correct corner, isn't so easy to warm to as an individual; she's very much an 'Ugly American' figure, constantly criticising the methods of her British legal team.


Denial faces one great hurdle in that it's a David and Goliath story in which we're asked to side against the underdog. Even if you're unfamiliar with the outcome of the trial, it's clear that no court in the western world was ever going to rule in favour of a Holocaust denier. Of course, Irving knew this himself; for him the trial was simply a publicity stunt. Denial disingenuously attempts to create some drama by giving the false impression that the British establishment was on the side of Irving, and that should he have won, the representation of the Holocaust in the British media might have been changed forever. A scene in which Lipstadt fails to convince British Jewish leaders to fund her trial indulges one of the age-old offensive stereotypes, suggesting they would rather concede to a Holocaust denier than put their hands in their pockets. That almost sounds like libel.

Denial is in cinemas January 27th.





discussion by