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Based on the acclaimed book "History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier," DENIAL recounts Deborah E. Lipstadt's (Academy Award winner Rachel Weisz) legal battle for historical truth against David Irving (Cannes Award winner Timothy Spall), who accused her of libel when she declared him a Holocaust denier. In the English legal system in Defamation, the burden of proof is on the accused, therefore it was up to Lipstadt and her legal team to prove the essential truth that the Holocaust occurred. Also starring two-time Academy Award nominee Tom Wilkinson, the film is directed by Emmy Award winner Mick Jackson ("Temple Grandin") and adapted for the screen by BAFTA and Academy Award nominated writer David Hare (THE READER). Producers are Gary Foster and Russ Krasnoff. Written by
The internal court scenes were filmed at County Hall in Kingston Upon Thames England. There is a recreation of the Old Bailey court there which was used as a real court until the early 90's and now is used solely for film and TV work. See more »
When Lipstadt is in her London hotel room, the shipping forecast is on the radio. We see the time on the clock as 12.42am. The shipping forecast does not air until 12.48am and is never early. See more »
They're a strange thing consciences. Trouble is, what feels best isn't necessarily what works best.
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What is it about court cases that TV always gets so right and movies always get so wrong? Denial, a film about an exceptional British libel case in which defendant Deborah Lipstadt had to prove the Holocaust, somehow manages to strip the integrity and interest off of this very exceptional case and make it dry as dust and dull, feeling like more like a TV show, though I've seen many hour long procedural that have managed to stir up more emotion in me.
We first meet Deborah (Rachel Weisz sporting a red wig and a loud queens accent), in the early 90s. She's a professor who lectures on the holocaust and she reserves particular venom for holocaust deniers, who she loudly and proudly proclaims she will never debate as she refuses to debate facts, and that the holocaust happened is irrefutable for her.
Deborah is quite happy with the work she does, but David Irving (Timothy Spall, appropriately slimy), is outraged that she has singled out him in particular. Well, it's more of a faux outrage. He uses her to gain publicity, gate-crashing one of her lectures to scream the holocaust never happened and eventually, worming his way into "debating" her, by suing her UK publisher for libel. The twist here is that in British courts, unlike in the U.S., it is the defendant who must prove what they said was true, rather than the plaintiff proving what they sad was false. Deborah is at first flabbergasted, but then heartened as she realizes that settling is not an option and that it is possible that she can prove that Irving is a bigot, not a proper historian once and for all.
The problem is the script which has Deborah lashing out repeatedly at her own legal team for not respecting the survivors and the history repeatedly, even though they tell her repeatedly that to try to "prove" the holocaust happened would be arguing on Irving's terms. Instead they argue that Irving is a bigot, falsely manipulating facts to prove his own theories. Deborah flies in the face of her legal team multiple times, but this has the effect of making her look stupid and arrogant as she fights their very reasonable advice. I also got the impression that the film was trying to make a point about reasoned approaches being important instead of impassioned ones, but it is also very clear that the members of Deborah's legal team care just as much about holocaust survivors and are just as disgusted by Irving but are approaching it a different way and Deborah is making it difficult for them to do their jobs. In their own restrained ways they are just as impassioned about the work they are doing and this really has the effect of making Deborah look silly.
The other thing is that the kind of slow-working case that the defence put on (the trial lasted for over a month), isn't very cinematic. Watching the movie I felt how much I wanted to read Lipstadt's book when this was all over. a movie simply doesn't have the time a book does to really reach into the details of the case and the "highlights" and "victories" seldom feel very cinematic though I'm sure they felt dramatic and wonderful in real life.
I will say that the acting was solid. The three lead actors Rachel Weisz, Tom Wilkinson and Timothy Spall don't put in career best work, but they are all solid performers and turn in good performances. They are the saving grace in a movie which takes an emotional subject and somehow makes it dull.
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