This afternoon, we were privileged to see the new film DENIAL by Director Mick Jackson (THE BODYGUARD, TEMPLE GRANDIN), starring Rachel Weisz as Deborah Lipstadt, Tom Wilkinson, as her barrister, Richard Rampton, Timothy Spall as David Irving, and Andrew Scott as Anthony Julius, Ms. Lipstadt’s solicitor.
I am writing to counter the largely negative reviews of this film. Stephen Holden in the New York Times http://[http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/30/movies/denial-review-rachel-weisz-denial.html says that “The absence of an emotional catharsis in the film . . . leaves a frustrating emptiness at its center.” Writing in The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/film/2016/sep/12/denial-review-rachel-weisz-holocaust-david-irving-toronto-film-festival Nigel M Smith, among other things describes the film as “a standard issue legal drama with broad stakes and zero nuance.” And Stephanie Merry in the Chicago Tribune, http://www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/movies/sc-denial-mov-rev-1006-20161006-story.html says the film “may be competent at telling its story, but it’s missing one key ingredient: feeling.”
I could not disagree more. This is a riveting and beautifully done recounting of Deborah Lipstadt’s effort to defend herself against the libel action launched by David Irving whom she described in her 1994 Book Denying the Holocaust as a Hitler defender and Holocaust denier. Emotional scenes abound: Lipstadt’s engagements with her team of lawyers who believed that the center of the case had to be not a proof of the reality of the Holocaust but an attack on Irving’s historiography; Lipstadt’s agonizing encounter with a Holocaust survivor who felt that survivors’ testimony deserved a place in the trial while Lipstadt’s lawyers believed that this would only provide an opening for Irvings’ easy abuse of them as gold diggers; Lipstadt’s final admission that her lawyer’s strategy was wise, though it required her to put her own emotional interest in defending her claims aside.
Having read much of the courtroom testimony (Richard Evans, Lying about Hitler; Robert Jan van Pelt’s, The Case for Auschwitz: Evidence from the Irving Trial, I’m amazed that the film is able to present so much of the complex testimony. The individual performances, above all that of Weisz, as the courageous but conscientiously conflicted Lipstadt, and Wilkinson as her late night Scotch-sipping but dedicated attorney, are excellent. The editing and cinematography serve the narrative at each moment. This is cinema as it should be. It’s sad when able reviewers fail to see or support that.