Plot: “Acclaimed writer and historian Deborah E. Lipstadt must battle for historical truth to prove the Holocaust actually occurred when David Irving, a renowned denier, sues her for libel.” (imdb.com)
Director: Mick Jackson
Stars: Rachel Weisz, Timothy Spall, Andrew Scott, Tom Wilkinson
Genre: Biography, Drama
Denial tells the true story of a series of events that ensued when author David Irving (Timothy Spall) sued historian Deborah Lipstadt (Rachel Weisz) for libel back in 1996. Irving claimed that Lipstadt mischaracterised him in one of her books as a Holocaust denier. Crashing one of her lectures, Irving offers $1000 to anyone who can prove that the Nazis killed Jews at Auschwitz. One would wonder “Why would an openly anti-Semite do something like that?” Well, according to the English legal system, in case of libel, the burden of proof falls on the defendant. Therefore, it was up to Deborah Lipstadt and her legal team to prove that yes, of course the Holocaust actually happened.
That was easier said than done, though. Lipstadt and her legal team, including solicitor Anthony Julius (Andrew Scott) and barrister Richard Rampton (Tom Wilkinson), worked intensively to find forensic evidence in order to prove that Jews were indeed murdered at Auschwitz. They did not allow living Holocaust survivors to testify, because Irving would humiliate them on the stand, so they had to rely on scientific facts and forensic evidence.
Here’s something interesting Lipstadt said to her legal team in the film:
“Don’t you see what he is doing? He is making it respectable to say that there are two points of view. People are going to see the news now and they are going to think “Oh okay, some people think there were gas chambers at Auschwitz and oh, this is interesting, some people don’t.” […] You know, if you can’t find a piece of paper where it says “Please murder the Jews” it means Hitler never wanted them to die in the first place! “Hitler was the Jews’ best friend”, Irving said that, he actually said that!”.
And I wholeheartedly agree because this is not a debatable topic. The Holocaust did happen and it’s estimated that the Nazis killed at least 1.1 million people at Auschwitz concentration camp. The result of losing this trial would be to make it acceptable for people to doubt the Holocaust.
Denial was an engaging and moving film with excellent performances. There is a rare location shoot at the actual Auschwitz, which really drives home what is at stake in this trial. The scenes there sent shivers down my spine. The subtle score by composer Howard Shore (The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit) completes the film.