“Denial”  2016- Directed by Mick Jackson.  Krasnoff/Foster Entertainment.

denial_(2016_film)

Director Mick Jackson and star Rachel Weisz do their best to dramatize the libel suit brought by discredited historian, David Iriving, against American scholar Deborah Lipstadt.

British law places the burden of proof upon defendants in libel cases, thus awarding Lipstadt (Weisz) and her lawyers, played by Andrew Scott and Tom Wilkinson, the opportunity to attack Irving’s credibility.  Timothy Spall portrays the world’s most notorious Holocaust denier with appropriate aplomb, with a touch of skeevy.

David Hare’s screenplay is wrought with dramatic moments, but they ring hollow as the characters recite the historical importance of what the viewers are witnessing.  Weisz is strong, as usual, portraying Lipstadt’s fish-out-water experience in the British legal system with touching vulnerability.   Lipstadt’s ordeal is an interesting academic issue, but Hare is unable to bring it effective dramatic weight.  Not every interesting historical debate requires screen-time to tell the story.

Irving was(and remains) reprehensible, but the film lends him too much credibility.  By 2000, Iriving’s reputation as an historian was already in tatters.  The libel suit against Lipstadt was simply a publicity stunt by a disgraced has-been.  Lipstadt’s victory over Irving merely confirmed what the historical community already knew.  The legal tensions portrayed in the film are at times overwrought.  Rather than a great victory for Holocaust remembrance, Irving’s rebuke by the British courts was simply a final nail in his academic coffin.

 

Gordon Sheaffer- 2019

James Madison Preparatory School

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