More than a film, Denial feels more like a call of necessary remembrance. When watching Denial, you could say its rather basic, a British courtroom drama that markets itself as Oscar bait by centralizing its tale around the Holocaust, but when actually analyzing director Mick Jackson’s take on the material, we can identify it as utterly relevant to current issues and a reminder from him and everyone involved in the making of Denial that the Holocaust occurred, that certain things happened in history and we can’t deny them but instead work on making sure they never happen again.
Intelligently crafted from a script by David Hare, Denial doesn’t focus on what’s going to happen at the end of the movie because we already know that from the moment we walk in to the theater, but rather focuses on the significance of what happens at the end of the movie. Denial isn’t about the moment but the significance of it. Surely the moment must be well presented to understand its meaning and although the situation is well-presented, it is the idea it sets forth what makes Denial important and worth talking about.
In Denial we’ve got Rachel Weisz being sued by a historian (Timothy Spall) for defaming him by insulting his belief that the Holocaust is a lie. Towards the beginning of the film, we see David Irving (Spall) hijack one of Lipstadt’s (Weisz) lectures offering to give anyone who can conjure a physical document that proves Hitler’s request to exterminate Jews one-thousand dollars. It is in this moment that the ideological battle that are film centers around begins, a battle for truth where we have Irving clearly preaching false belief and cheating history for personal gain and Lipstadt defending history by searching for literal proof that can explain the Holocaust did occur. Clearly this sounds like an easy case to prove, but when it comes down to it, Irving’s overwhelming senselessness and loyalty towards his false belief is so insane that Irving neglecting true facts isn’t just that, but in a way writer David Hare is commenting on the dangers of belief and especially how the justification of a false beliefs can be so harmful to society. It’s an exceptional job that Hare does in not only marking the importance of this case, but also the relevance of the structure of belief and fact; and how if we begin to blur those lines together we’ll only be damaging what is actually fact and harming our capacity to believe.
As for the performances in this film, some are honestly great and others simply quite forgettable. That being said, they all share a common defect, that being that they’re all playing exaggerated version of who these people are. In the case of Timothy Spall it works because it doubles down on the vile nature of this character, being the great actor that he is, Tom Wilkinson is able to use this in his favor and heavily dramatize his acting for the utmost important moments in the film and using the extremely British version of his character for comedic relief when not in the court sessions. On the other hand you’ve Rachel Weisz trying to emulate this model and ultimately failing. Its not to say that her performance is bad, but its just not entirely believable at times. Starting from the fact that casting her in this role is a very odd choice, having someone who we clearly know is British trying to play a character written as American as can be, it just doesn’t work from the very basis of having Weisz play Lipstadt. Then there’s Andrew Scott’s case who delivers a performance that probably goes hand in hand with what the description in the script laid out for him, but that description is so stereotyped that Scott’s portrayal of Anthony Julius becomes comically overwhelmingly British at one point. The acting isn’t bad at all, its just overly theatrical for a film.
Denial is definitely important, intelligent, and relevant and something the people of today’s society should concentrate on analyzing its central themes more than the film itself. That being because Denial is a rather basic film that follows the same margins that several British-Oscar bait-like historical films follow. What sets Denial apart from these classification of films, is that at its core its not just trying to look pretty for the award, but actually trying to implant good morals and a important message that today’s society seems to lack. Despite its overly theatrical performances and basic narrative, Denial is worth-checking out on the basis of the ideas it presents.