Film Review: Denial

Denial is factually-based drama from English director Mick Jackson concerning the ‘Irving V, Penguin Books Ltd.’ court case. It features lengthy sequences taken word-for-word from the trial because screenwriter David Hare obviously thought what was said was so extraordinary that he didn’t dare change it.

Rachel Weisz stars and she’s very good indeed (even her put-on Queens accent impresses), although Timothy Spall has been getting all the publicity for his performance as historian (or that’s what he calls himself anyway) David Irving. Spall lost a fair bit of weight to play the guy and allows himself to look jowly and leathery, as if all that hate has seeped out through his skin.

Weisz’s Deborah Lipstadt (whose book History On Trial: My Day In Court With A Holocaust Denier was another source) is an American professor of Holocaust Studies whose books supposedly defame Irving, and he files a libel lawsuit against her. In the UK the burden of proof in such cases lies with the accused, and so Deborah must travel for lengthy periods to London and work with solicitor Anthony Julius (Andrew Scott a.k.a. Moriarty in TV’s Sherlock), barrister Richard Rampton (Tom Wilkinson) and a crack legal team. Irving, however, like the up-himself show-off that he is, chooses instead to conduct his own representation.

The lawyers insist that the Holocaust itself cannot be put on trial and that Irving must be left to basically hang himself with his own words, and there’s an early sequence actually filmed in Auschwitz where Lipstadt, Rampton and others attempt to imagine what the long-destroyed gas chamber looked like. This furthers Deborah’s (and the film’s) sense of outrage, as Irving is shown attacking the smallest of details and Spall, who is such a funny and sweet player elsewhere, gets more and more vile.

Courtroom dramas can be a dreary lot but this is seriously compelling and even suspenseful, whether or not you know what the verdict was at the very end of this long and protracted trial.

Rated M. Denial is in cinemas now

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