Holocaust expert Deborah Lipstadt (Rachel Weisz) and her attorneys, preparing for court room battle.
Those of us who have not lived under a rock all our lives are pretty familiar with certain truths; i.e., the world is round, astronauts actually landed on the moon, and atrocities like the Holocaust really happened. But here’s a question: What if you had to go into a court of law and prove that these things are true? What facts would you use to make your case?
That is the challenge facing Holocaust expert Deborah Lipstadt (Rachel Weisz) in the docudrama Denial, based on a British libel case from 2000. In the film, plaintiff David Irving (Timothy Spall), alleges that Ms. Lipstadt has characterized his writings and public statements as Holocaust denial in her book, Denying the Holocaust. He sues both Lipstadt and her UK publisher, Penguin.
Lipstadt soon discovers the difficulty of her situation. In British civil court, the defendant is the one who must prove their position, not the plaintiff. Therefore, Lipstadt’s legal team must provide evidence that the Holocaust really happened, in order to defend her written statements in Denying the Holocaust that Irving systematically denied it.
Most legal dramas center on action in the courtroom. Denial focuses on the fireworks behind the scenes; specifically Lipstadt’s disagreement with the way her lawyers wish to litigate the trial. For example, she is horrified when her team tells her that neither she nor living Holocaust survivors will be allowed to testify. Instead, the team will thoroughly review Irving’s diaries regarding involvement with rightwing groups, and they will search out forensic evidence related to the central point of the trial: The massacre of Jews at Auschwitz. The question is whether the lawyers’ measured plan of attack in the courtroom will work. Is it a mistake to leave Lipstadt and the survivors out of the proceedings?
Weitz is pretty good as Lipstadt, but the real standouts are Timothy Spall as Irving and Tom Wilkinson as defense advocate Richard Rampton. These two actors provide the most compelling in-court dramatics of the entire film.
It is most unfortunate that Denial was not in wide release, at least in my area. It should be seen by everyone, especially young people. The film teaches us a couple of lessons: 1) We must never forget the Holocaust. 2) In an age where fake news and “alternative facts” seem to run rampant all over the media, it is extremely important to carefully verify facts and information before drawing conclusions about anything, especially history.
You can download Denial from amazon.com using the following link:
You can also find Deborah Lipstadt’s book about the libel suit, History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier,” at amazon.com.
Pluses: Excellent performances from Timothy Spall and Tom Wilkinson; moving scene concerning Auschwitz location.
Minus: Sometimes lags in dramatic propulsion.
Cast: Rachel Weisz, Tom Wilkinson, Timothy Spall, Andrew Scott, Lack Lowden, Caren Pistorious, Alex Jennings.
Director: Mick Jackson