Bleeker Street Media
Reviewed by: Tami Smith, Film Reviewer for Shockya
Director: Mick Jackson
Written by: David Hare; based on History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier by Deborah Lipstadt
Cast: Rachel Weisz, Tom Wilkinson, Timothy Spall
Release Date: September 30, 2016
“I’d like people to understand that the Holocaust is the best documented genocide in the world. There is no denying it. You can debate aspects of it – why it happened, how it happened, but not the fact that it happened. It is incontrovertible fact. It can’t be debated. And that’s not being closed-minded, it’s acknowledging the truth.” – Deborah Lipstadt’s reaction to the film “Denial”.
“I say the following thing: there were no gas chambers in Auschwitz. There have been only mock-ups built by the Poles in the years after the war.” – David Irving in a 1990 Speech.
A few times during Denial we watch Deborah Lipstadt (Rachel Weisz) jogging past the statue of warrior Queen Boadicea on a London street, during the wee hours of the night. This Celtic monarch led an uprising against the Roman occupiers in AD 60 and inspired thousands of soldiers to follow her in attempts to force the invaders out of the Britain. Boadicea is an important cultural symbol in the United Kingdom and had a London statue to prove it since 1902. In Denial Queen Boadicea represents the courage Lipstadt will need to keep moving forward in the court case presented against her by David Irving in 1996.
Deborah Lipstadt is an American historian and an author known for books such as: Beyond Belief: The American Press and the Coming of the Holocaust, 1933-1945 (1986); Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory (1993); and The Eichmann Trial. (2011).
David Irving is an English Holocaust denier who has written on the military and political history of World War II, with focus on Nazi Germany. His works include: The Destruction of Dresden (1963); Hitler’s War (1977); and Goebbels: Mastermind of the Third Reich (1996). Once recognized for his knowledge of Nazi Germany, Irving’s reputation was discredited in 1988 when he began to preach Holocaust denial.
In 1996 Irving filed a libel case against Lipstadt and Penguin Books in London’s English High Court. He charged that Lipstadt’s book Denying the Holocaust accused him of being a Nazi apologist who manipulated evidence to support his claims that the Holocaust did not take place. He felt that the book was part of an effort to ruin his reputation as historian. The trial commenced on January 2000 and lasted 32 days. The defense team was led by Solicitor Anthony Julius and Barrister Richard Rampton, to prove that Irving was a Holocaust denier who deliberately manipulated facts to support his own ideological view. Irving chose to represent himself. Neither Lipstadt nor Holocaust survivors took the stand. Judgment was delivered on April 2000 by Sir Charles Gray, a 333-page document in favor of the defendants. The English court found that Irving was an active Holocaust denier, an anti-Semite and racist, who misrepresented and manipulated historical evidence, distorting the history of Adolf Hitler’s role in the Holocaust to depict him in a favorable light.
While some viewers may feel that the plot of Denial may presents a heavy toll and the courtroom scenes are tedious and dry I enjoyed the presentation very much. The plot takes us to Lipstadt’s workplace at Emory University, Atlanta, GA; the Royal Court of Justice, where the trial took place and the Antheneum Hotel where Lipstadt resided while in London. Some exterior scenes take part at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum and Krakow, Poland.
Though director Mick Jackson presents the facts in a dry and studious manner, his casting choices prove stellar. Rachel Weisz, looking great with a chock-full honey colored hair, presents historian Deborah Lipstadt as a person who goes through attitude changes. At first she does not recognize that British law claims her “guilty” until proven “innocent”. Watch her “take-no-prisoners” attitude on the first day of trial, standing while Judge Sir Charles Gray enters the courtroom, but refusing to bow as instructed since she is an American. Watch her again during Verdict Day, standing up, head bowed as required by British court etiquette. Observe her rebellious attitude when notified that she would not be testifying in the trial and her acknowledgment at the end that the legal team made an excellent choice.
Tom Wilkinson presents Barrister Richard Rampton with dry humor, showing us a Scotsman that would never say “no” to a drink, but is committed to do his job and “win” a legal case by hard work and persistence, while refusing to look the accuser in the eye.
Timothy Spall plays David Irving’s character with a straight face, while spewing the most unbelievable historical revisions. Watching his demeanor after the verdict is read, trying to shake the Barrister’s hands while the latter ignores him deliberately, is worth the price of admission.
Andrew Scott gives a fine performance as Solicitor Anthony Julius, while Alex Jennings is given very little to work with in judge Charles Gray’s role, thus presenting him as one-dimensional character.
All-in-all the verdict is in and this judge finds for Denial – I highly recommend it.
Rated Pg-13. 110 minutes © Tami Smith, Film Reviewer