Movie Review: Denial
By Justin Cudahy, Contributor
[Bleecker Street; 2016]
In 1993, American author and historian Deborah Lipstadt released her book, Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory, which provided the history of the Holocaust as well as an analysis of the Holocaust denial movement. It was in this book that Lipstadt called out English author and denier David Irving, accusing of him of fabricating history as a means of pushing his “racist” agenda. Three years later, Irving would sue Lipstadt and her publishing company for libel. The trial would last 32 days in total, with the court finally coming to a decision on April 11, 2000, proving in favor of Lipstadt.
Denial is a retelling of this court case, and is broken up into two acts. The first act examines what it is that started the fire between these two authors, all leading up to the case, which would not occur for another four years. Lipstadt faces the issue of having to abide to court laws in England, in which the accused is guilty until proven innocent, the opposite of how the system works in the United States. The second act is the trial itself, in which Lipstadt slowly begins to realize that this is more than just a libel case. This is also a trial that will decide how history will be written in regard to the existence of the Holocaust, a thought that frightens Lipstadt and her defense team.
The movie does a great job at retelling what is an unpopular but important case in history. All scenes that take place in the courtroom are filmed nearly exact to the actual event. All the dialogue comes straight from the transcripts in the trials, giving the audience an authentic experience as to what actually happened. Unfortunately, it sets back the movie, making it feel like a live-action documentary, rather than an actual film. There are scenes that feel stale at times, lacking the emotion that you as viewer are wanting from a character. Watching Rachel Weisz, who plays the American author, sit and scoff at everything her accuser says gets old after the third time, but it’s the most that the movie can do to make the scene not totally boring.
The acting, for the most part, is solid all around. Academy Award-winner Rachel Weisz does a nice job portraying the tough and resilient Deborah Lipstadt. However, it’s clear that the stand out star is Tom Wilkinson who portrays the British libel lawyer, Richard Rampton. His scenes in the courthouse are some of the movie’s best, making Rampton look like a British version of Atticus Finch. The film’s last star, Timothy Spall does a nice job portraying the charismatic and stubborn author, David Irving. Unfortunately, it seems like the movie focused too hard on making him the antagonist, which as a result makes him appear more like a Disney villain, rather than just a normal human being with contrasting views to the film’s protagonist.
While the acting is top notch, it still doesn’t save the movie from keeping you focused and connected to the matter-at-hand. Despite these few flaws, Denial is still a well-made, as well as important, movie for people to watch.