Denial is a star-studded courtroom romp that is based on the well-known case of Deborah Lipstadt versus Holocaust denier David Irving. This is an emotive topic that appears ludicrous to even question, but has real relevance as we move into Trump-era presidency. People in power must be made accountable for their words.
Viewers are introduced relatively glibly to Weisz’s Lipstadt, Professor of Modern Jewish Culture, where her strength of character is demonstrated by an overly dramatised lecture, hefty ginger wig and smiling students all clamouring to greet her.
It’s a stiff inauguration to both plot and characters, and this struggle for emotional connection remains throughout. The audience endure as distant spectators in a personal story that seems unsure of its motivations, but it’s impossible not to be drawn in by the weightiness of the narrative, and some rather haunting questions: How do you prove the Holocaust happened?
The movie’s importance makes it decidedly self-aware, and the weight of a potential Oscar is obviously present in the mind of director Mick Jackson, who floods the screen with heavy-handed metaphors. Thankfully, the strong visuals of the film counter this, as a thoroughly enjoyable throwback to the questionable tastes of the noughties, expertly juxtaposed against the harrowing remnants of Auschwitz.
With such a stellar cast excellence is expected, and they are on top form when in the courtroom, though there’s an underlying sense that they’re not given quite enough to do. Weisz is a phenomenal actress but she is diminished to a stereotype with her “American ways” and “outlandish” scholastic tendencies, the same way Spall is characterised too heavily as villainous and creepy. There’s an interesting twist towards the end of the court proceedings that gives dimension to Irving and begins to explain, chillingly, why racist behaviour is hard to see as inherently wrong by the offending party.
In spite of the rather rough handling of the script, Denial’s significance as a testament to freedom of speech and the subsequent fight for the truth endures. It’s an intriguing watch that may be better suited for television than the silver screen, but will be remembered for its immortalisation of one of the Jewish community’s greatest challenges, and its victory.
Denial is released nationwide on 27th January 2017.
Watch the trailer for Denial here: