I just came out of Mick Jackson‘s Denial (Bleecker Street, 9.30). A reasonably well-honed courtroom drama buttressed by crisp writing and performances that serve the film rather than vice versa, Denial does a decent job of making an absurd, real-life libel suit seem almost interesting.
It focuses on a real non-jury trial that examined the legitimacy of a claim made by Hitler biographer and apologist David Irving (Timothy Spall) that professor and Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt (Rachel Weisz) libelled his reputation by writing that he, Irving, was a Holocaust denier.
This may have been a compelling case for certain parties within the British legal system 16 years ago, but a legal argument about whether or not Irving’s published opinions about the Holocaust being more or less an overblown myth and that Adolf Hitler was a misunderstood visionary whom history has maligned and more particularly whether Lipstadt erred in calling him a fantasist…well, the mind reels.
It’s just not a compelling story, this thing. In what realm are Holocaust deniers even listened to, much less taken half seriously outside of neo-Nazi circles? Exactly, and yet Denial tries to make audiences care about a legal dispute that has no realistic bearing on reality as millions know and accept it, based on indisputable fact.
The Holocaust happened. Anne Frank and her family really died. Schindler’s List was not an exaggeration. In 2012 my sons and I visited Dachau, the infamous concentration camp outside Munich, and stood just outside the one-story brick building where prisoners were given “showers.”
Denial is a well-made, well-acted film but give me a break.