Directed by Mick Jackson
Written by David Hare
From 24th January 2017
Reviewed by Colin Serjent
Denial is a film about American Holocaust academic Deborah Lipstadt (Rachel Weisz), who was sued by the British war historian and infamous Holocaust denier David Irving (unconvincingly played by Timothy Spall) for calling him a liar.
Lipstadt and her publisher Penguin Books, refused to settle out of court. But if they had done so they would not have given him the ‘oxygen of publicity’ which he so craves. The fact that a feature film has been produced about the trial in London must please him greatly, even though he lost the case.
The legal team, led by solicitor Anthony Julius (Andrew Scott) and barrister (Tom Wilkinson), supporting Lipstadt, wanted the trial to be as low-key as possible, including not allowing survivors of the Holocaust to testify about their harrowing experiences at Auschwitz. They feared that Irving would have relished brutally cross-examining them (he had no legal team to support him – he represented himself).
A problem I found with Denial – a very glossy production, which was out of kilter with the abhorrent subject matter – was that although the dialogue used in the court scenes were authentic – they were taken from transcripts of the trial – did not gel with the rest of the human interaction shown outside court, where the dialogue that occurred perhaps did not take place. A case of fact and fanciful fiction.
There were a number of scenes which were questionable. Lipstadt and her legal team went to Auschwitz to examine some of the now demolished buildings which were used to incarcerate and then gas many Jews. But there was no form of security surrounding the complex. In other words anyone could pop along and trample or whatever over the concentration camp terrain. Absurd.
An embarrassing scene, at the conclusion of the trial, was Jeremy Paxman interviewing Irving, no, not the real David Irving but the character portrayed by Spall!
There were also a number of cliched moments in the film, the worst being the appearance of a red bus and Big Ben to represent that the trial took place in London.
Despite these faults the monumental and monstrous story of The Holocaust will never diminish.