The movie Denial is about a former Rockaway resident who is sued by Holocaust-denier David Irving and must prove that the murder of six million people really happened to a British court. Onrockaway.com calls it a must-see movie.
By Howard Schwach
Commentary from onrockaway.com
“Denial” was the movie the audience was watching concerned the Holocaust in the 1930’s and 1940’s and was set in the 990’s, but many of those in the seats watching the drama unfold kept murmuring “Donald Trump” every time the villain of the plot, David Irving opened his mouth.
In fact, Irving might have been an earlier incarnation of Trump played on a Saturday Night Live skit.
The movie, however, was anything but a comedy and lots of wet tissues went into the trash bins when the movie ended.
Denial is a compelling courtroom drama that recounts the sensational lawsuit for libel brought by English historical author, Hitler supporter and Holocaust denier David Irving against American academic teacher and author Deborah E. Lipstadt and her publisher Penguin Books. Lipstadt is a former Rockaway resident and graduated from Far Rockaway’s Hebrew Institute of Long Island, which stood for many years at Seagirt Boulevard and Beach 20 Street in buildings that once were the summer home of New York State Governor Alfred E. Smith, the first Catholic to run for president.
In fact, in one scene in the move, Irving comments on Lipstadt’s “Brooklyn accent,” and she retorts, “Queens.”
Her influential work, Denial: Holocaust History on Trial, is sensitively dramatized by director Mick Jackson and screenwriter David Hare, who choose to stick as close to the real story as possible.
Rachel Weisz’s combative Lipstadt, a shining woman warrior, is a role she will be remembered for, while as her antagonist Timothy Spall makes a thoroughly despicable, anti-Semitic Irving.
All the dialogue in the courtroom scenes is taken verbatim from the trial records, giving them an almost documentary level of realism.
Hare negotiates between these shoals while still hitting hard at the Nazi sympathizer Irving for his distortion of the historical evidence in the service of rehabilitating Adolf Hitler.
The film opens on Deborah’s fateful 1994 lecture at Emory University in Atlanta, where she teaches Jewish Studies. Her book has just been published by Penguin, and the lecture hall is packed with students. Suddenly a man stands up and identifies himself as David Irving, challenging her to debate him on whether the Holocaust ever happened.
Lipstadt declines and angrily throws him out, but two years later she receives a letter in the mail postmarked England. Irving is suing her for libel on the grounds her book has ruined his career.
Deborah is soon meeting with famed British solicitor Anthony Julius (Andrew Scott) who represented Lady Diana in her divorce case and has a framed and signed clipping in his office to prove it. Lipstadt’s introduction to British law offers a foretaste of headaches to come, when Julius tells her that in libel cases the burden of proof is on the defendant, not the plaintiff as in America.
She still has a choice to settle with Irving out of court, but her conscience is outraged at the idea. Raising money for her defense proves no problem, and she flies to London to meet her legal team who are top in their field. To her surprise, she discovers solicitor Julius will be preparing the case but not defending her in court; that task falls to noted barrister Richard Rampton, roundly portrayed by Tom Wilkinson as a hard-drinking, hard-hitting libel lawyer whose eloquence on the floor is a show-stopper. Though Deborah takes a long time to understand him, his brilliant concentration and towering anger on the floor overturn her ideas about him.
Another surprise is that Irving has foregone legal representation and will be defending himself.
While many, if not most, viewers will go into the film already knowing the outcome of the trial, it won’t dilute the conviction that a great deal is at stake and riding on the judge’s momentous ruling. Should Irving win the case, it will make it legitimate to hold an opinion about the Holocaust: those who think it took place vs. those who don’t. Should the judge rule in Lipstadt’s favor, for the first time there will be an important legal ruling confirming it happened.
Timothy Spall brings a touch of the absurd to the abrasive, distasteful Irving that captures the character without judging or justifying him, or even really explaining him.