Denial Review – A Stunning Account as the Holocaust Survives Another Authenticity Challenge

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Denial, from Bleecker Street, is the true story of David Irving, a Holocaust Denier, who charged an American Professor Deborah Lipstadt, the author of "Denial: Holocaust History on Trial" and her publisher Penguin Books, with libel under British Law.

Directed by Mick Jackson and written by David Hare, Denial stars Rachel Weisz, Tom Wilkinson, Timothy Spall, Andrew Scott, Jack Lowden, Caren Pistorius, Alex Jennings, Harriet Walter, Mark Gatiss and John Session, and is based on the book by Deborah Lipstadt.

Denial begins in Atlanta, a very excited Deborah Lipstadt, played by Rachel Weisz, has just received her newest book and is lecturing at Emory University where she is a professor of Jewish history and studies.

Her lecture is well attended by many who bring up the inevitable question of the day: Did the Holocaust actually happen as told or is it a fabrication of the Jewish imagination to further the means, gain sympathy and enhance the financial status of Jews for generations to come?

In the audience a very loud man stands and begins what appears to be a continued assault as the two adversaries have met previously each debating the others intelligence, awareness and agendas.

The man, David Irving, played by Timothy Spall, a British self-proclaimed historian and scholar who actively pursues the hypothesis that the Holocaust was a myth and never happened. More specifically the gas chambers are a myth, his position remains the six million or so who died as a result of Hitler's extermination did not in fact die in the gas chambers. He has spent a life, and more than one fortune attempting to prove and sustain this as fact.

As the academia community is an open forum for the exchange of ideas, theories, other veins of thought and literary interpretations, the students attending the Lipstadt lecture are enticed by the offer of free books from Irving who promises to dispute the modern and accepted historical accounts of the gas chambers.  

Soon Lipstadt receives a call from her publisher making her aware that she has been charged under British law by David Irving with libel after she called him a "Holocaust denier" in her book Denying the Holocaust. Irving played the home court advantage card, charging Lipstadt under British law which is a two tiered legal system and quite opposite from the United States.

Soon she is in London, unprepared for the soaking rains, the legal system, the strategy the entire system seemed twisted, convoluted, and complicated. More so, she found the "innocent until proven guilty" as the United States legal system affords is the opposite under British law. She was charged with proving she did not intentionally and maliciously libel Mr. Irving.  

Anthony Julius, played by Andrew Scott, the lead legal solicitor, which is where British law for those not accustomed to daily accounts becomes confusing. It was his task to research each aspect of the case.

Taking the case pro bono, it was often thought his effort was self-serving as a case of this magnitude would generate the media attention and do for him what his initial claim to fame, settling the divorce of Diana, Princess of Wales, did.

To argue in court, a barrister must present the case. Richard Rampton, played by Tom Wilkinson, a leading British libel lawyer agreed to take on the case.

Rampton and Julius planned a strategy that seemed offensive to Lipstadt. As an intellectual Lipstadt believed she had some authority in the area and clearly an expertise in the subject and should be given some leeway in decision making.  

Lipstadt has commented David Irving made "Holocaust Denial" fashionable and accepted. He lived in an upscale section of London, dressed like an English gentleman and of course for anglophiles and others his British accent was modern seduction.

His assaults against history were, for those directly affected, equal to saying Pearl Harbor was a myth and the Japanese didn't really commit the morning air raid.

As an historian, it is difficult to imagine an intellectual with this viewpoint and yet the trial began in March 2000 and lasted for 40 days.

Denial is more than accurate account of an egregious misuse of any legal system. It is a film and very well, commendably well done. 

Obviously decisions were made as to the extent of footage of Auschwitz to be used. The solemnness of the moment as they stood before the ruin shells of the Gas Chambers was overwhelming. Pay special attention to the scenes near the gas chambers and the dark clouds in the distance. It appears as if the director used black and white footage mixing with the grey clouds.

The film is very interesting.  The legal system, a courtroom drama as offensive as the challenges, the turmoil, unrest, the gallery of survivors wanting to bear witness to the atrocities, the conflict over strategy all add to the tension as each make decisions based on expertise and not feelings.  

The ruins of the gas chambers, the mountains of personal effects, of shoes, all shown as one would see these items today should one visit the site. It was deeply moving.

Deeply moving and personally touching as history is outrageously tested. Denial maintains the existence of the horrendous crimes of World War II by Hitler and his final solution plans. The question becomes does the English court? Mick Jackson's direction allows audiences to hear the souls of the innocent slain still crying from the grave.

Denial is in theaters everywhere. Check local listings. See this film.

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