“DENIAL” My rating: B
110 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13
The arrival of “Denial” could hardly be more timely, given the increased white nationalism encouraged — or at least not denounced — by Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
Based on historian’s Deborah Lipstadt’s 2005 memoir History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier, Mick Jackson’s film is a legal drama with repercussions far beyond the courtroom.
In 1997 Holocaust-denying historian David Irving sued Lipstadt (of Emory University) and her publisher, Penguin Books, for defaming him and his theories in her book Denying the Holocaust.
Irving opted to sue in a British court, choosing that venue rather than one in America at least in part because under British law persons accused of libel must prove their innocence (in theU.S. it’s the plaintiff who must prove wrongdoing).
The resulting film is well acted, informative, and emotional for the quiet contempt it heaps upon anti-Semitism with a scholarly face.
Rachel Weisz portrays Lipstadt with a tightly-wound, steely exterior that periodically bursts into fierce flame.
She first encounters Irving (Timothy Spall) face to face when he shows up at her college lecture and waves $1000 which he’ll give anyone who can prove that any Jew was ever killed in a Nazi gas chamber.
The bulk of the film centers on Lipstadt’s interactions with her British solicitor (the lawyer who will prepare her case) and her barrister (who will argue it in court). These figures of probity and quiet dignity are portrayed, respectively, by Anthony Scott (best known as Moriarty on the PBS “Sherlock”) and the ever-wonderful Tom Wilkinson.
Part of the team’s preparations involves a trip to Auschwitz (on a eerily beautiful foggy winter’s day), where Lipstadt is moved by the echoes of dead souls but also somewhat perplexed…before the war ended the Germans blew up the gas chambers in an effort to destroy evidence of their crimes.