“God must have been on leave during the Holocaust” – Simon Wiesenthal
“There is nothing that compares to the Holocaust” – Fidel Castro
“The Holocaust was an obscene period in our nation’s history. I mean in this century’s history. But we all lived in this century. I didn’t live in this century” – Dan Quayle
In 1993 Deborah Lipstadt (Rachel Weisz) published her second book, Denying the Holocaust: The Assault on Truth and Memory. In that book she accused David Irving (Timothy Spall who was brilliant as “Simon Graham” in ‘The Last Samurai’) of being a Holocaust Denier. Irving was a noted military historian until he began denying that the Holocaust actually took place.
His place in the spotlight fading rapidly, Irving decides the only way to regain relevance was to file a lawsuit against Ms Lipstadt and her publisher, Penguin Books. He sued in the United Kingdom, where libel laws work differently than they do in the U.S. In the U.S., the burden is on the plaintiff to prove what the defendant said or published was false. In the UK, the burden is on the defendant to prove that what they said or wrote was in fact, the truth.
Denial is the translation of Ms Lipstadt’s book chronicling the trial that took place in London to the big screen. It examines the preparation for the trial, where Deborah worked with solicitor Anthony Julius (Andrew Scott) and barrister Richard Rampton (Tom Wilkinson). Another way that the British legal system is different than the American system is that one lawyer works to prepare the case for trial while another lawyer actually represents the client in the courtroom.
The trial did not begin until several years passed since it was filed. A massive research effort was undertaken by the legal team for the defense and part of that is explored in the film. Of particular note is a trip made by Ms Lipstadt and Mr. Rampton to Auschwitz, where several pivotal moments in the movie take place. The trial itself is the meat and potatoes of this film and the actors do not disappoint inside and outside of the courtroom.
Rachel Weisz, who earned an Academy Award for The Constant Gardener is amazing in her portrayal of Deborah Lipstadt. She nails every nuance of the real-life woman she is playing on the big screen including the accent and other nuances of speech. She was the perfect choice for this role. To borrow from 1992’s A Few Good Men, watching Tom Wilkinson “thunder away” at Timothy Spall during his examination in the courtroom was worth the price of admission alone.
David Hare’s screenplay, an adaptation of Ms Lipstadt’s own tome on the trial is solid. The film’s 110 minute run time is crisp and there are almost no wasted moments. Well worth your time.