Denial (2016)

brooke Denial is legitimately interesting and a little frightening
The latter mostly due to the fact that Timothy Spall is great at playing a creepy creep.

casey my takeaways:
1. Bad history is incredibly difficult to disprove because it’s hard for nonexperts to distinguish truth from bullshit, especially when there’s good money in the latter.
2. Rachel Weisz is very good at acting.
3. It’s hard to take the British legal system seriously with the wigs.

brooke Hahaha, I’m with you on all three counts.
So Denial focuses on the real-life libel trial brought against historian Deborah Lipstadt (Rachel Weisz) by holocaust denier David Irving (Timothy Spall), who objected to Lipstadt calling him a liar in one of her books. Although Lipstadt is American, the the trial takes place under British law where the burden of proof lies with the accused in libel cases. Her lawyers have a difficult task: to show that Irving knowingly lied without giving him the publicity he wants by putting the Holocaust on trial.

casey As you said, Spall is more or less born to play a sniveling villain, which makes him perfectly suited to this role. Whether it’s an accurate portrayal is irrelevant as far as I’m concerned: I don’t need a sympathetic depiction of a professional Holocaust denier. As for the film, most of the drama actually comes from Lipstadt chaffing against her legal team–as you said, their goal is to focus on Irving, while she pushes for a more expansive defense of the historical record. At times, it comes off as a bit didactic and overdramatic, but I enjoyed it.

brooke Lipstadt is Jewish, so it’s not surprising that she pushes her legal team to include things like testimonies from Holocaust survivors, but the team refuses to allow it and Weisz’s performance really made me feel the tension as she begs them to include those voices. The head solicitor Anthony Julius (Andrew Scott), turns in a performance that keeps you wondering for half the film whether the legal team is really on her side. Scott has played a number of slightly slimy roles, and he brings just an edge of that to Denial.
The head barrister Richard Rampton (Tom Wilkinson) delivers a great performance in court, both as an actor and as the head of the legal team, with a real sense of worry and tension in his face that had me wondering at times whether true history would triumph in the end.

casey Maybe the biggest downside is that the trial scenes can feel a bit stagey and overly stylized. The most powerful scene takes place during trial research at Auschwitz itself, where the film almost can’t help but capture a sense of solemnity, but the rest often struggles to recapture the same gravity.

brooke It doesn’t fall flat by any means, but it’s just a solid movie rather than a great one.
I enjoyed it, but it’s not required viewing.

casey I agree. Denial is decent and sometimes excellent, with strong lead performances. It’s also a glimpse into a world that you hope to never encounter but nevertheless needs to be fought  diligently. Let’s hope that kind of lunacy stays on the far fringe where it belongs.

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One comment

  1. CineMuseFilms · January 29

    While this is not for entertainment, it is a strong story that is well told. It is also an important film, especially as we are in an era where the denialists are in power in many places around the world. I gave it 8 out of 10; it is an under-acclaimed film.

    Like

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