Movie Review: ‘DENIAL’ – message outweighs impact of narrative

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Jared McMillan // Film Critic

DENIAL | 110 min | PG-13
Director: Mick Jackson
Cast: Rachel Weisz, Tom Wilkinson and Timothy Spall

In today’s American social climate, it has become clear that we hold opinions in greater currency than actually history or statistics. One can look no further than this upcoming election, as candidates react with half-truths or flat-out lies, leaving the public to fact-check. The sociopolitical spectrum is heavily manipulated from the basis of emotion.

So it’s no surprise that a movie like DENIAL would come along as both a reflection of how we handle discussion, as well as a micro representation of history repeating itself.

Based on the case David Irving v. Penguin Books and Deborah Lipstadt, the film follows Prof. Lipstadt (Rachel Weisz) defending herself in a libel case against David Irving (Timothy Spall) in front of London’s High Court of Justice. The libel stems from Lipstadt’s book DENYING THE HOLOCAUST, which is a study on the practice of those that deny the existence of the Holocaust.

In this book, she calls Irving, a renowned Holocaust denier and Hitler enthusiast, a fraud and a liar. In 1996, Irving, ever the glory hound, brings this case to court in order to argue the Holocaust on an international stage, where the press is there to fuel the fire. Filing the case in London allows for the burden of proof to fall on the defendant. While Lipstadt is more than willing to take him head on, her legal team, led by Barrister Rampton (Tom Wilkinson) will instead find holes in Irving’s work as their case.

Written by David Hare (THE READER, THE HOURS) and directed by Mick Jackson (TEMPLE GRANDIN), the best parts of DENIAL are when they involve procedural tactics, such as Lipstadt and Rampton visiting Auschwitz or arguing that pragmatism triumph over the emotion. However, it can’t ever escape the feel of a TV movie, with a lot of emphasis on Howard Shore’s score to dampen possible impact. The majority of the actual case is shown in various ways to expedite the proceedings, which leaves the pacing disjointed; an example is only showing two key witnesses where there were five or six in the actual trial.

But, in a sense of juxtaposition, the emotion is the point. Weisz and company do well to showcase their characters without going overboard, and sometimes in spite of the script (America and Britain are different!). The purpose of the movie is to showcase an argument of history, and how it can be manipulated as a way to attain notoriety. Looking at what is going on around us today, DENIAL is something we have all seen and been disgusted by. This message is more important to the viewer than the story.

DENIAL opens in limited release on Friday, September 30.

About author

Preston Barta

Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.

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