Denial, which is based on a true story, stars Rachel Weisz as Deborah Lipstadt, a history professor who specializes in arguing against Holocaust deniers. One of those deniers is David Irving (Timothy Spall), a man who has written WWII history books claiming that the Holocaust didn’t happen. When Lipstadt slams Irving in her most recent book, Irving takes her to court for libel. But since he’s British, the trial happens in London and it’s up to the defence, led by Richard Rampton (Tom Wilkinson) and Anthony Julius (Andrew Scott), to prove that Irving deliberately falsified his facts in order to make his claim.
Denial, which was directed by Mick Jackson, is written by David Hare, a writer and filmmaker I admire very much, but he seems to have missed an opportunity here. In other words, the story in Denial has the potential to make a very good film, especially given the quality of the actors (and the acting was excellent, by far the strongest feature in Denial), but it fails at a number of levels.
The biggest problem for me is that the straightforward almost made-for-TV presentation failed to captivate me. Primarily, this was because I could never understand why I should care about this story at all. Despite being a big event in the news, I don’t see why the story of a sad Holocaust denier is a story worth telling. It might have been worth telling if we got to know more about Irving and his motivations or if we were told why this event was important, but neither is the case.
Then there’s the fact that, while it’s often repeated that the trial is not about whether the Holocaust happened or not, the film takes us to Auschwitz and reminds us again and again that it did happen and that the survivors need to be heard. This would make sense if we need to be reminded that the Holocaust really did happen, but I have never heard anyone seriously question this and have certainly never doubted it myself, so why is this necessary?
What I’m trying to get at is that I don’t understand why we would take Holocaust deniers seriously enough to make a film about one.
Finally, there’s the fact that Lipstadt has a slightly irritating voice and personality. I have no doubt that this was deliberate, but it makes Denial difficult to sit through, especially given my complaints above.
As with The Girl on the Train, my review sounds more negative than the end result might warrant, because I did think Denial was worth watching, so will let it slide over the line to ***. My mug is up, but low expectations are in order.