CAPSULE: Jewish-American Deborah Lipstadt accuses Holocaust denier David Irving of lying about the Holocaust and is sued for libel. In spite of some very good acting the film too often fails to engage the viewer as being as emotionally gripping as its subject deserves. Rating: +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10
DENIAL is a docudrama of an actual case of libel. The film tells the story of Holocaust denier David Irving's (Irving played by Timothy Spall) libel case against a Jewish-American, Deborah Lipstadt (Rachel Weisz). Irving had in his books denied that there was any murdering of Jews at Auschwitz. Lipstadt publicly called Irving a liar and in return he sued her in a London court. Lipstadt has a team of lawyers led by the estimable Richard Rampton played by the equally estimable Tom Wilkinson. Spall this leaner and more commanding than he has been in previous roles.
Mick Jackson directs David Hare's adaptation of the autobiographical account by Deborah Lipstadt. To me the film ironically has the problem of not being manipulative enough. Accounts of vicious inhumanity that really took place really should incense the viewer. But DENIAL does not involve itself in the wide range of crimes against inhumanity that occurred at Auschwitz. It concerns itself only with the gas chamber murders. They were bad enough, but the film never creates for the viewer the wide range of atrocities and somehow this robs it of some of its power. This film is never as riveting as the similar film QB-VII. DENIAL was released during the Clinton-Trump campaign and can undoubtedly be seen as a commentary on that Presidential campaign. Of course it is one of several films that seem to have that interpretation.
It would have been an obvious choice for Weisz to play Lipstadt as faultless, particularly since the film is adapted from Lipstadt's own account, HISTORY ON TRIAL: MY DAY IN COURT WITH A HOLOCAUST DENIER." Instead she is played as a little foolish and naive about the British legal system. She seems to feel that as long as she has right on her side she need not worry about points of strategy. This creates a double conflict for her. She is opposing Irving, of course, but she also wants to speak and have Holocaust survivors come and bear witness to the atrocities. This gives the film an opportunity to tell the viewer about the differences between the British legal system, which does not guarantee freedom of speech, and the system she was used to in the United States. At times the discourse is even philosophical. Much of the case rests on the question of whether a falsehood the speaker truly believes really is a lie or not.
Overall the film is just a tad dry while covering such poignant issues. I rate DENIAL a +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4645330/combined
What others are saying: https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/denial_2016
Mark R. Leeper Copyright 2016 Mark R. Leeper