Denial, directed by Mick Jackson. PG-13, 110 minutes. The film plays at 5:10 pm each night this week at Claremont’s Laemmle 5 in the Village. Discounted tickets can be purchased at DOS for $8.
At a talk at Dekalb College in 1994, British historian David Irving officially declared war on Emory University Professor Deborah Lipstadt. Lipstadt, who specializes in Holocaust and human rights studies, specifically names Irving as a Holocaust denier in her book. Irving genuinely believed that the Holocaust never happened, so when Lipstadt called out Irving’s distortion of evidence and faulty reasoning in her book, Irving understood this to be an act of libel. He sued her in England, and under British libel laws, the burden of proof lies on the defendant, as there is no presumption of innocence like in the American legal system.
Denial chronicles Deborah Lipstadt’s quest to prove that the Holocaust did indeed happen, and therefore validate her right to call Irving a Holocaust denier. She is aided in her pursuit of truth by noted barrister Richard Rampton and solicitor Antony Julius, portrayed with subtlety and strength by Tom Wilkinson and Andrew Scott. The courtroom scenes in which Lipstadt’s lawyers battle with Irving, who acts as his own counsel, are by far the film’s most riveting.
Unfortunately, this strength also reveals one of Denial’s biggest weaknesses. Those who attended Lipstadt’s talk at the Athenaeum in 2013 will remember her brilliant intellect and passionate energy. Though Rachel Weisz effectively emulates Lipstadt’s look and voice, she fails to capture her raw emotional power with genuineness and believability. Director Mick Jackson and writer David Hare fill their film with gorgeous scenery and sharp dialogue, but as Weisz grows increasingly overshadowed by her exceptional co-stars, the story loses the larger than life impact that it has in real life.
Denial is certainly an enjoyable film, and its message is as important today as it ever was, but the film ultimately falls short of doing its source material justice.
Final rating: 7.5/10
Note: Claremont Hillel will be hosting a group trip to the Thursday showing, more information can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/events/210526356041962/