“Not all opinions are equal.”
A difficult quote to grasp, author and historian, Deborah Lipstadt (Rachel Weisz), speaks this phrase proudly and frankly. She expands on this by proclaiming that there are some things that are based in fact and need to be acknowledged. Just because someone has an opinion about it, doesn’t make their opinion valid. This is directly linked to Holocaust deniers, climate change deniers, people who ignore the fact that slavery happened, and all other deniers of everything that has been proven to be true, historically or otherwise. It’s such a powerful moment that, unfortunately, still stands and holds truth today.
Based on a true story, “Denial” follows the story of Lipstadt, author and historian who, in 2000, went to court to defend historical truth against David Irving (Timothy Spall), who claimed libel when Lipstadt accused him of being a Holocaust denier in her book. The trial, which took place in London, had Lipstadt working with an incredible team of lawyers (Tom Wilkinson, Andrew Scott). But instead of trying to prove Irving wrong, the burden of proof fell upon Lipstadt to prove that her accusation against Irving was right. It wasn’t just Lipstadt on trial, however. Because Irving was a firm believer that Hitler never ordered the murders of Jews during World War II, it was a trial to defend the historical evidence and facts that prove the Holocaust’s unfortunate existence.
“Denial,” directed by Mick Jackson and written by David Hare, isn’t complex in its execution. It explores concepts and holds discussions regarding truth and fiction, how to present a case that will stand the fire of the media and future deniers, and the obvious ridiculousness of those who wish to deny simply because they can’t wrap their minds around the fact that humans would do something so unspeakable. But fact is sometimes stranger than fiction and often times much more devastating. And it’s wonderful that the film dives right into that aspect and isn’t shy about being forthright.
Rachel Weisz is wonderful as Lipstadt. She exudes power and solidity in her stance, but it’s when she comes to face the Holocaust survivors who have come to witness the trial that she begins to feel the pressure of the transpiring events. Ultimately, Weisz’s Lipstadt is a force to be reckoned with. Tom Wilkinson also delivers a strong performance as Richard Rampton and when he’s tearing Irving apart using well-equipped words, it’s a joy to watch. Timothy Spall’s delusional and fact-denying Irving is fundamentally meant to get under your skin. He’s so staunchly stubborn in his opinions that he’s convinced himself they are true. The fact that he continues to believe in his allegations and calls himself a historian is astonishing to every audience member and character involved.
“Denial” boasts solid performances by a tremendously talented cast. It gets straight to the point and doesn’t waste any time trying to touch on any personal matters within the larger narrative. And although it is a good film, there isn’t anything overly compelling in its execution. It never ventures into anything outside of the trial. It does, however, accomplish what it sets out to do, and that is to set facts straight and give agency to history, its survivors, and to those who perished because of its ruthlessness.
"Denial" accomplishes what it sets out to do, and that is to set facts straight and give agency to history, its survivors, and to those who perished because of its ruthlessness.