There is a list of claims that Holocaust deniers typically adhere to in their statements: 1) that the killing was not systematic, 2) that the numbers were exaggerated, 3) that Auschwitz was not built for extermination, and 4) that the Holocaust was there for a myth -- so that Jews could receive pity or funding because of it.
Historian Deborah Lipstadt scoffs at all these claims. In Mick Jackson's latest film, DENIAL, based off of Lipstadt's book, "My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier", Lipstadt (played by Rachel Weisz) does exactly what the title reflects: known for refusing to debate those who deny the Holocaust actually happened ("I won't debate fact," she says), she finally finds an exception in John Irving (Timothy Spall), a denier and Hitler enthusiast who sues Lipstadt for libel, saying that she is part of a worldwide conspiracy to rob him of his reputation.
Lipstadt turns to Anthony Julius (Andrew Scott) -- a litigator known for working with Princess Diana on her divorce case -- who quickly puts together a legal team to take the case, led by Richard Rampton (Tom Wilkinson). But Julius and Rampton want to do things a little differently than how Lipstadt expects: they don't want to call any Holocaust survivors to the stand as witnesses, instead deciding to veer the case away from proving the Holocaust's viability and focusing the trial on Irving's credibility -- prove that he got facts wrong intentionally, they say, and the case is won.
The juxtaposition of Julius and Rampton's cold, calculated litigation and Lipstadt's fiesty, outgoing personality is startling at first, but provides a nice contrast in a story that borrows its structure from films like last year's SPOTLIGHT: the team deals with nothing but the facts, yet the social implications are still powerful. Weisz adds the zest needed to make DENIAL stand apart, though perhaps the fast-moving pace of the story prevent her from that next level of memorability in this particular role. There are, however, some powerful scenes, particularly the one in which the team visits Auschwitz, taking one of the few still, slower-paced moments in the film to reflect and remember.
This is an interesting watch! DENIAL is now playing at Midtown Cinema.