DENIAL – 3½ (out of 4 stars)
Did men ever land on the moon? Is climate change real? Did the holocaust ever exist? Were people gassed to death at Auschwitz?
Anyone with common sense would know the answers to all of these questions are yes they’re all real. However, there are those who are in denial that any of these event ever existed. U.S. Senator Roger Wicker from Mississippi believes climate change is a hoax. David Duke, past leader of the Ku Klux Klan will argue that the Holocaust never happened. And David Irving a renowned British historian will tell you that no one was gassed at Auschwitz.
People who refuse to believe the truth, otherwise known as deniers, have been around for a long time. They been examined throughout history, literature and films. The 1960 film Inherit The Wind the classic courtroom battle between Henry Drummond (Spencer Tracy) and Mathew Harrison Brady (Frederick Marsh) dealt with the topic of evolution.
The film Denial is an intense biographical telling of the famous trial between acclaimed Jewish historian and writer Deborah E. Lippstadt (Rachael Weisz) and her court room battle against renowned denier David Irving (Timothy Spall). Lippstadt wrote a book about the Holocaust and mentions Irving in a derogatory fashion and Irving sues her in a British court even though she’s American and the book was written in the USA.
Unlike US law where a person is innocent until proven guilty, in British law the accused must prove themselves innocent in a slander or libel case. Additionally, the role of a lawyer is separated into two parts. A Solicitor (Andrew Scott) who does the legal research and a Barrister (Tom Wilkinson) who presents the case in front of the court.
This film was a great courtroom drama that basically tested the anxiety of trying to prove their side of an argument against those who refuse to accept the facts. In most cases, deniers are usually, racists, bigots, anti-semitic, homophobics or other similar personal beliefs. There were plenty of Holocaust survivors who wanted to testify at the trial but this is a case about libel. The only defense against libel is the truth. If you’re telling the truth you’re not libelous. So the question becomes how do you prove that the other party is lying?
I found this film to be a spectacular examination of this issue. It delved into the premise in a multi-faceted manner. Should you go forward with lengthy litigation or settle the case? Do you testify in your own defense? Do you bring holocaust survivors to testify as proof? Isn’t their voice important? Who can speak for the millions killed in the Holocaust? How do you stop the denier from expounding his beliefs to the mass media? Taking that into consideration, how do you prove the other side is intentionally lying in order to advance his cause? It is this dilemma that this film examines.
I thought the ensemble cast did an incredible job. Each actor brought incredible power to their characters and while slow I found myself mesmerized with every detail. I can’t reveal the details but there is one scene where the legal team visits Germany, where I felt my heart skip a beat and took me a few minutes to recover.
I would recommend this film to everyone. It’s not a big action film, no explosions no stunts no CGI but real life drama of real people. Incredibly powerful stuff that moves the soul and enhances the mind. While some people may have issue that the film did not go into in-depth character analysis, I think they’re missing the point. The film deals with the subject matter of how do you prove what happened at Auschwitz when there are very few records and most evidence was destroyed to keep the atrocities secret. It’s a very pondering question which I believe this film addressed in an excellent fashion.