Review / ‘Denial’ (M) ****

AMONG the more than 50 feature films about the Holocaust, “The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas” and “Son of Saul” are permanently etched in my memory.

I wonder how many David Irving has seen (a verifiable number if anybody can be bothered trying to determine it) and whether he has published his opinion about any that he has seen. Frankly I can’t be bothered trying to find any such.  Dereliction? I think not. His opinions are well known from his other writings.

Deborah Lipstadt (Rachel Weisz) is an American academic historian. In 1996, David Irving sued her in a British court on the ground that her book “Denying the Holocaust” libelled him. Director Mick Walsh and British playwright David Hare have created a film in which a top-flight English principal cast and one American soberly tell the story of the trial.

“Denial” skilfully blends narrative and documentary styles to deliver enough information to do honour and justice to its theme without overloading the film-goer with information. History has recorded Mr Justice Charles Gray’s (Alex Jennings) 333 pages written judgement finding in favour of Ms Lipstadt. Coming to that moment is a 109 minutes memento of crimes that more than seven decades ago burst upon a horrified world.

Walsh has taken much trouble to make his film a mirror of both the trial and its underlying historical events.  Lipstadt’s solicitor Anthony Julius (Andrew Scott) refused, rightly as events proved, to call any Holocaust survivors to give evidence. The issue in the trial, under Britain’s libel law, turned out to be that Irving, who conducted his own case, had deliberately misrepresented evidence to conform to his ideological viewpoints

I am prepared to believe that the sequence in which Richard Rampton QC (Tom Wilkinson) walks over the ruins of Auschwitz was shot on location. The visual power of those moments and the enduring majesty of the court-room revitalises the imagination. 

So too will Timothy Spall’s compelling portrayal of Irving. I came away wondering how, after each day’s filming, the actor’s inner moments dealt with the awfulness of the character. 

At Palace Electric

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