Denial is a gripping courtroom drama unlike any you’ve seen before. It tells the remarkably true story of American academic and historian Professor Deborah Lipstadt (Rachel Weisz) who was made to prove the truth of the Holocaust – something that is considerably harder than it sounds – after being sued for libel by Holocaust denier David Irving (Timothy Spall at his absolute best).
For those of you that aren’t familiar with libel – I wasn’t – it refers to a published false statement that is damaging to the person about whom it speaks. Professor Lipstadt named and shamed Irving in her book, blatantly calling him a liar for his denial of the Holocaust. When he subsequently took her to court, she was bound to back up her own claim by proving the Holocaust did in fact happen, and furthermore that it was on direct and specific orders from Hitler.
What makes this film so interesting, and so unlike others, is that its story isn’t about one individual and the question of their guilt or innocence… this is about one of humanity’s most infamous and evil wrongdoings, one of biggest scars in recent history which is generally considered among the most horrific crimes against humanity the world has seen. And yet, one individual is taken to court to prove its existence. The mind boggles at the absurdity and yet, this is a true story.
Denial is a film of exceptional calibre, and is full of rich, complex characters and arguments which may challenge the beliefs you hold strong to. It wages a triangular war, pitting human emotion against pure facts, as well as arrogant pride. You may think you know which is strongest, but when laid bare in a court of law, which of the three will come out on top?
This film will speak to anyone who has been longing for a little real-crime action in the wake of hit shows such as Making a Murderer, Amanda Knox and American Crime Story which dominated our screens and social feeds so consistently when they aired. In fact, I can’t think of any audience who wouldn't find this an interesting watch.
Perhaps the most powerful praise I could give Denial is this: it kept me on the very edge of my seat. While that doesn’t sound like much, consider the nature of this film; it follows a court case not to uncover a truth we are in the dark about, but simply to present an argument for the Holocaust that will hold up in court. This film is made in such a way that it keeps you hooked, hanging off every word.
It seems absurd, even sick, to question that the Holocaust happened, as it discredits and insults the memory of 6 million people who were pointlessly murdered as a result, and thousands more who suffered. It enrages, it makes us see the absurdity of a legal system that allows such a thing to be questioned, and makes audiences so frustrated we want to tear our hair out, right along with Lipstadt throughout her court case.
The cast is comprised of only excellent actors, and every one of them is at their very best in Denial. Timothy Spall turns out what I would argue is his best performance to date. British Weisz is convincing as a feisty American surrounded and baffled by the British who are so very different from her, and Tom Wilkinson is as brilliant as ever.
I can only implore you to see this film, it will send shivers down your spine, make your skin crawl, possibly make you weep – I did – and make you question things you’ve never thought to before. I couldn’t ask more of a film. Top marks!
In UK cinemas 27 January