Denial may be Dry but is Undeniably Captivating [Review]
Directed by: Mick Jackson
Produced by: Gary Foster, Russ Krasnoff
Screenplay by: David Hare
Based on: History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier by Deborah Lipstadt
Starring: Rachel Weisz, Tom Wilkinson, Timothy Spall, Andrew Scott, Jack Lowden, Caren Pistorius, Alex Jennings
Running time 110 minutes
Rated PG-13 for thematic material and brief strong language
Based on the acclaimed book “History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier,” DENIAL recounts Deborah E. Lipstadt’s (Academy Award winner Rachel Weisz) legal battle for historical truth against David Irving (Cannes Award winner Timothy Spall), who accused her of libel when she declared him a Holocaust denier. In the English legal system, the burden of proof is on the accused, therefore it was up to Lipstadt and her legal team to prove the essential truth that the Holocaust occurred. Also starring two-time Academy Award nominee Tom Wilkinson, the film is directed by Emmy Award winner Mick Jackson (“Temple Grandin”) and adapted for the screen by BAFTA and Academy Award nominated writer David Hare (THE READER). Producers are Gary Foster and Russ Krasnoff. – Courtesy Bleecker Street Entertainment
Denial is a uniquely captivating, and singularly moving dry British courtroom drama; that eschewed wild dramatized twists that lent a visceral feeling of reality to this film. There were no larger than life characters, and no contrived sub-plots, there was barely even a raised voice. The entire film rests on the shoulders of a fascinating story and the understated talents of a fantastic cast of actors, especially Rachel Weisz, Tom Wilkinson, and Timothy Spall.
The film spoke to the justice and injustice of the burden of proof, responsible skepticism, and unwavering advocacy for truth in the best possible ways. When David Irving rejects the truth of history, the onus is placed upon Deborah Lipstadt, and Solicitor Richard Rampton, to bear the burden of proof, and carry the audience on an arduous journey. I cannot recall having a film challenge me as an audience member to the extent that Denial did. I rode waves of doubt, and righteous outrage at the thought that anyone could so adamantly reject the truth of the Holocaust.
Now this film is incredibly British, and by British, I mean it is dryer than a vermouth martini, but this particular cinematic martini is very satisfying. It will no doubt not appeal to all audiences, it is heavy, and academic more than occasionally, but I believe it will become a film that will serve as a witness to history, and be required viewing for many a student of history. Given that I eat films like this for desert, I was extremely pleased; however, I do recognize there were a few flaws. For example, the foundation of the story was missing context, while the details were picked up along the way, it would have proven beneficial to expand those narrative points before launching into the primary conflict. I was concerned the film has started fifteen minutes in before I realized the details of the back-story were being fed to the audience slowly, like the spectators we are. While I recognize this was a clever, and time saving trick from director Mick Jackson, I have to disagree with its use in this film. This may be the largest criticism I have of Denial, but I would not say it is my only critique. I would also say the dialogue, while brilliant, could also be abrasively contrived at times, I am thankful that those times are few.
I will be revisiting Denial, and I will be revisiting this film with my children as they become familiar with history. I expect to be riveted with each viewing, and feel it is time very well spent.