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Denial **

by Julian Stark

Perhaps the most pertinent film of the year thus far, and that makes its aloof and uninspired direction all the more disappointing.

Is it worth $10? No

With the current social climate, in which subjective truths have seemingly eclipsed objective truths, “Denial” could not have come at a better time. There will be those who skew information to justify their biases, and others who seek the facts. Fact is concrete and absolute, but fact must fight. It must triumph over lies and falsehood, or else truth loses its way. The film’s enjoyable moments are the few moments when it revels in the fragility of truth. Unfortunately, the narrative structure is cold and void of momentum. It is as if the film relies entirely on the events it evokes, the Holocaust and modern political tumult, to carry the emotional weight of its narrative, and it falls flat as a result.

In 1996, Third Reich historian David Irving (Timothy Spall) filed a lawsuit against Emory University professor Deborah Lipstadt (Rachel Weisz) for making defamatory claims against him in her book, “Denying The Holocaust.” Due to the fact that he sued her for libel in English court, the burden of proof is on her. She has to prove that Irving’s claims discrediting the existence of the Holocaust are false.



Deborah hires her legal team, consisting of solicitor Anthony Julius (Andrew Scott) and lawyer Richard Rampton (Tom Wilkinson). One of the best aspects of any courtroom drama should be the strategies used to win a case. Like most of “Denial,” that is even dull to watch. Most of the strategies involve what they shouldn’t do instead of devising an actual plan. Lipstadt is told by her team to remain silent, to deny her own voice. She reluctantly obeys for the sake of the suit and as a result, she has no effect on the rest of the story. She is the protagonist just because the movie needs one.

The one moment that notably induces a somber mood is a well-filmed scene at Auschwitz. It is dreary and grey, with little sound to accompany it. Cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos takes his time establishing shots of the fog engulfed camps, and the gloominess pervades through the screen. One moving shot has a drip of water falling from barbed wire, as if a teardrop.

Rachel Weisz plays Lipstadt with bold energy and passion, although the Queen’s accent she speaks in often sounds forced. The film’s script, with its minimal backstory, doesn’t demand much from her emotionally, and so her role is not Weisz at her best, but she is enjoyable to watch in anything she is in.


Timothy Spall gives the best performance of the movie as Irving. There is something ratty and sinister about his presentation, but he is also quirky and eccentric. His manner of speech is tantalizing and casually toxic. Unfortunately, he often is used more as a representation of falsehood than as an actual character, and so he too is held back because of faults in the screenplay.

“Denial” is a courtroom drama that lacks both in the courtroom and in the drama. Without character development or established pacing, the verdict just seems like a means to an obvious end. There is never a shadow of doubt that the defense will win the case against Irving, and with stakes so low, the case, and the movie itself, feels underwhelming.

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