Monday 13 February 2017

Film: 'Denial'

On the whole, I found this rather heavy-going. Based on the real-life episode of Hitler-fan and holocaust-denier, David Irving (Timothy Spall, looking alarmingly gaunt - due, I hope, merely to his slimming down for the part) suing American historian and lecturer Deborah Lipstadt (Rachel Weisz) for libel (and slander?) in the British high court after she had called him a 'liar'. 
I recall this case (recent as the year 2000) as being a running news item, though couldn't recite the details, nor even wasn't sure how it had ended. It hinges on Weisz's defence lawyer (Tom Wilkinson) proving to the judge's satisfaction  in this jury-less case (because it was considered too complicated) that the holocaust did in fact occur.  

Early on in the film I found myself musing that the piece might work better as a stage play. The film early on revealed itself as stodgily talky, and then I remembered that the screenplay was by none other than renowned playwright David Hare, so that seemed to make sense.

Most of the 'action' if you can call it that, takes place in the courtroom, where Lipstadt has been strongly advised not to put herself forward as a witness. She's highly perplexed at the English legal system, so while the two protagonists engage in their verbal duelling, she is reduced to sitting there, silently fuming and giving appropriately expressive looks.  
Before the case opens there is a visit to the remains of the Auschwitz camp, preserved as a moving memorial to those who perished.

The film is not without interest, and was useful in reminding me of the details of the case, though hardly with much illuminating insight. It was nearer to a handy historical reconstruction, and if that was what it was intended to be, then it succeeded.

I couldn't place the name of English director Mick Jackson, but I now see that it was he who directed 'The Bodyguard' of 1992 and 'L.A. Story' of the previous year with Steve Martin - and has done mainly TV work since then.

I'd put this film in the 'interesting' category, one that's more likely to satisfy the curious when they know what the story refers to, rather than it being an out-and-out 'must-see'.................6.

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