DENIAL (2016)

Genre: Drama
Director: Mick Jackson
Cast: Rachel Weisz, Tom Wilkinson, Timothy Spall, Andrew Scott, Jack Lowden, Caren Pistorius, Alex Jennings, Harriet Walter
Runtime: 1 hr 50 mins
Rating: PG13 (Brief Coarse Language)
Released By: Shaw  
Official Website: 

Opening Day: 17 November 2016

Synopsis: Based on the acclaimed book Denial: Holocaust History on Trial, DENIAL recounts Deborah E. Lipstadt's (Academy Award winner Rachel Weisz) legal battle for historical truth against David Irving (BAFTA nominee Timothy Spall), who accused her of libel when she declared him a Holocaust denier. In the English legal system, in cases of libel, the burden of proof is on the defendant, therefore it was up to Lipstadt and her legal team, led by Richard Rampton (Academy Award nominee Tom Wilkinson), to prove the essential truth that the Holocaust occurred.

Movie Review:

Some of the best reviewed and most moving films are deal with the Holocaust – Schindler’s List (1993), Life Is Beautiful (1997), The Pianist (2002), The Boy in Striped Pyjamas (2008) and Son of Saul (2015) are some titles that come to mind.

If you don’t already know, the Holocaust is a genocide that took place from 1941 to 1945, and about six million Jews were kllled by Adolf Hitler's Nazi Germany and its collaborators. The victims included 1.5 million children and represented about two-thirds of the nine million Jews who had resided in Europe. The persecution and genocide were carried out in stages, culminating in what Nazis termed the “die Endlösung der Judenfrage” ("Final Solution to the Jewish Question"), an agenda to exterminate Jews in Europe. One can only imagine the countless number of real life stories which haven’t been told on the big screen.

The latest one to reach our protected shores is this British American drama based on Deborah Lipstadt’s 2005 book History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier. The real life event saw Lipstadt and her publisher Penguin Books being sued by Holocaust denier David Irving for libel for characterising some of his writings and public statements as Holocaust denial in her earlier book Denying the Holocaust (1995).

Holocaust denial involves someone refuting the fact that that Nazi Germany's Final Solution did not include the extermination of Jews, that Nazi authorities did not use extermination camps and gas chambers to mass murder Jews; and that the actual number of Jews killed was lower than the historically accepted figure of 5 to 6 million.

This 110 minute film will please fans of courtroom dramas. You see how the protagonist, together with her legal defence team go through how the English legal system works, debate opinions at lengthy hearings, and eventually proving that the antagonist specifically knew that he was lying in claiming that the Holocaust did not occur.

Mike Jackson (The Bodyguard, Volcano) directs the film from David Hare’s (The Hours, The Reader) screenplay, and the result is a sensitive and respectful take on the somber events that took place less than 20 years ago. Viewers who are interested in history and have strong views about the atrocities of the Holocaust will appreciate the plot development, while those who prefer their movies loud, action packed and CGIladen may want to give this a miss. Oh, if you’re feeling exhausted after a long day, the many scenes of characters conversing with each other may induce the sleeping bug.

Rachel Weisz gives a committed performance as Lipstadt, a woman who does not give in to the system without fighting back. She faces off with Timothy Spall, who plays Irvingwith a human touch. When the film ends, you wonder whether the man was right in sticking with his views. The supporting cast delivers solid performances as well – from Tom Wilkinson’s hard hitting libel lawyer (Richard Rampton) to Andrew Scott’s vocal solicitor (Anthony Julius) – this is a showcase of powerful acting. 

Movie Rating:

(This courtroom drama featuring solid performances is a sensitive and respectful take on real life events)

Review by John Li


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