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By Richard von Busack October 14, 2016
Who doesn't wish that Auschwitz was just a bad dream? The middling yet entertaining movie Denial concerns David Irving, one of the world's most unappealing contrarians, and the Emory University professor Deborah Lipstadt, whom Irving sued for libel in the British high courts.
Lipstadt (Rachel Weisz) is a renowned expert on the Holocaust at Emory University. In one of her books, the professor dismissed the work of the self-taught British historian and Holocaust denier David Irving (Timothy Spall). In the 1990s, Irving got a sympathetic audience for his Holocaust theories because of his embrace of Fred Leuchter's faulty research—see Errol Morris' excellent documentary Mr. Death about that deluded engineer, and how Leuchter vandalized Auschwitz to try to prove his point.
Even if it takes us to Auschwitz, crusted in snow and shrouded in ground fog, it's dryly funny at times. Director Mick Jackson (Volcano, L.A. Story) has previously shown a talent with comedy. There is evil humor in Irving's mulishness, as he tries to erase the stain on the reputation of his beloved Fuhrer. Irving's tactics—likened by one reader of Lipstadt's book to Maxwell Smart's "Would you believe?..." routine—would be ridiculous if it weren't so hateful. Denial inspires the chuckle of satisfaction one gets watching a bully get what's coming to him.
As a courtroom drama, Denial is for the London tourist. Deborah, the visiting American, is wowed by the cathedral-like ceilings of the gothic High Court building; the camera passes through an arcade in which the wooly court wigs are on sale. Yankee viewers can puzzle over the tradition that has British judges dressing in red Santa Claus suits.
Screenwriter David Hare contrasts the emotional Jewish-American with the dogged British, who are ready to take Irving down in public. Lipstadt's History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier is full of the frustrations of being sued for libel in an English court where the accused must prove innocence. But a miscast Weisz plays Deborah as a pain in the rump—morally right but a little obtuse to some well-thought out legal strategy.
Weisz has dyed russet hair in a '90s mop cut, as if she were impersonating Amy Irving in a biopic; she uses a Queens accent as stage-Jewish as Kyle's mom on South Park. As in Sully, Deborah goes for night jogging, and keeps stopping to admire the statue of the warrior queen Boadicea, to whom the film affectionately links her, twice. It's fair enough to contrast the ancient and modern heroines. When Deborah likens the lawsuit to resistance in Nazi-occupied Europe, it seems self-aggrandizing.
The male actors corner the movie. Spall, who has lost a startling amount of weight since Mr Turner, excels at preening arrogance. He makes Irving a combo of puppy and coyote, with the slipperiness of the racist who can change his terms and deny what he said. Plenty of vinegar here from Tom Wilkinson and the ever-feline Andrew Scott as the inside and outside man in the long trial. Wilkinson is Richard Rampton, the bon vivant barrister never far from an open bottle. Scott is Anthony Julius, a chilly, almost priestly solicitor whose part in the trial is to conduct the research. In Scott's performance, we see, as it were, Moriarty playing Sherlock Holmes. Take Scott's low-key description of services for a certain aristocratic client: "Diana needed a divorce, and I, uh, acted for her." One wanted to see these devastating lawyers crush the Nazi apologist, without interference. It's not quite as interesting to take in the hurt feelings of Deborah, justified though she is.
The movie ends with a denunciation of well-paid liars, including those who try to wish away evidence of melting ice caps. Viewers of Denial might contrast David Irving and a certain presidential candidate who ignores the research of experts, as well as the common experience of everyday life. A man, like Irving, who is self-pitying when called on to justify his outbursts; a man, like Irving, given to digging his own unique view of history straight from the inside of his skull.
By Reno February 16, 2017
**A courtroom drama about who's right and who's wrong!**
There are many factors to consider, especially for a film like this. Yep, the film was based on the real courtroom event. The film is about two people to prove they're right on their book about the war crimes whether that took place or not. So all the episodes take place in a British high court with mention of Auschwitz concentration camp, particularly about its ruins than the events that happened in there. That means it's a great drama to learn about how these two fought in a lawsuit face-off, but there's nothing about the real event just like the film 'The Eichmann Show'. If you are not a Jew or a neo nazi or not even a European and North American, then this is an okayish film from the entertainment aspect, other than learning truth and history.
I really expected some real events, but we have already seen in many films about Auschwitz camp. So they kept this film as a modern day court trial than mixing up with those old crime. Great acting by all. Timothy Spall nailed it in his negative role. He was just a fine supporting actor, till I started to recognise him since his genius display in a biopic, 'Mr. Turner'. This is his one of the top performances. He could play Don Trump in his biopic, beside Rob Redford who's a bit old for that. Rachel Weisz was okay. Her role was not strong enough, despite she's in the main character. Because everyone around her took the honour to rise above hers. Be it Tom Wilkinson, who was surprisingly awesome.
So in my perspective the film was good, but not great. The courtroom events lacked strong hold with what a film needs and what the viewers wants with twists and turns in the argument. But I'm very happy being honest than modifying its story to make film commercial worthy. Though the film had some its own moments, in the end it was not enough. Particularly how it concludes and to think why this trial even took place makes no sense at all. Seems more a joke than anything serious, just because of someone being crazily challenging and the other one responding to it. Anyway, it's still largely a sensitive matter and my view is just as an outsider. But the film is worth a watch, if you are not expecting a bigger picture after reading its synopsis.
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