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April 9, 2018

Denial (2016) --- "Woman Goes To Court For Believing The Holocaust Existed. The Verdict Will Leave You Speechless."

Plot Summary
When university professor Deborah E. Lipstadt includes World War II historian David Irving in a book about Holocaust deniers, Irving accuses her of libel and sparks a legal battle for historical truth. With the burden of proof placed on the accused, Lipstadt and her legal team fight to prove the essential truth that the Holocaust occurred. Based on the book "History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier." (1)

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Hello, Movie Buffs! 
     Directed by Mick Jackson (The Bodyguard; Volcano), written by David Hare (The Reader), and based off the true story novel, History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier, by Dr. Deborah Lipstadt, Denial (2016) is a wonderful film where history is questioned and placed on trial by the English Justice System and its elitism.

     American-Jewish author, Dr. Deborah Lipstadt, is sued for defamation by British Holocaust denier and Hitler fan, David Irving. In England its “guilty until proven innocent”, rather than the opposite as it is in America, so the accused is heavily burdened with finding proof of their innocence. Although not being familiar with the English Justice System, Lipstadt and her legal team have to prove that the Holocaust happened and that the Irving lied with intention.
     Some films use denial-ism is a survival mechanism but this film demonstrates a type of denial-ism that can be a dangerous form of dishonesty, it can be contained but never fully eradicated. The power of truth and the power to manipulate truth have been debatable themes throughout history. So when I first heard of this film, I was shocked to find out that some people have to prove, in court, that the Holocaust was real. Hence, I was immediately captivated by Denial (2016) and how it corresponds with today’s world where power is often used to create alternate realities and truth is a biased concept that always questioned and re-interpreted.
     Denial (2016) is very relevant to what we see today from dishonesty Holocaust deniers who make assertions about the Holocaust in order to undermine its place in history. Today people have become desensitized by the atrocities of war because entertainment industries have turned war into a profit by glorifying it in films and video games. As a result, recent there are few films that pay adequate homage to the Holocaust. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2008) will make almost anybody’s hear wrench for the two young characters, while Schindler’s List (1993) dazzles audiences with its use of simple visuals in black/white and symbols. All in all, both films manage to take a dark part in a history and turn it into a profoundly moving piece of entertainment. Denial does things a bit differently by following a high-stakes legal battle that could have de-legitimized the entire history of the Holocaust. The trial takes place in the unfamiliar territory that is English Justice System (in regards to American knowledge of it) and as such Lipstadt’s defense team knows that the best thing to do is for her to win to remain quiet and let the other side talk their way into defeat. This proves to be very difficult for Lipstadt who wants to fight for justice in a heroic and high profile way but it demonstrates that there are at least two ways to win a trial. The script is very tight with first-class performances from all the actors and the footage of Auschwitz is emotionally harrowing in a way that is handled with utmost reverence.
     The casting is perfect and characters are very well developed. Rachel Weisz (The Light Between Oceans) is an amazingly talented British actress. Her portrayal of Deborah Lipstadt is superb in that she has to bite her tongue many times due to Irving's anti-Semitism. It was a stark contrast to see her play a brash American dealing with the conservative traditions of the English Justice System. The antagonist, David Irving, is portrayed wonderfully by Timothy Spall (Harry Potter). He makes you believe that he is a Holocaust denier with brutally effective racism and brilliantly subdued malice. He questions that ‘history is written by the victors’ and that there is a lack of proof of some ‘truths.’ The supporting cast makes a strong ensemble, especially Tom Wilkinson (Full Monty) as Richard Rampton, Andrew Scott (Victor Frankenstein) as Anthony Julius, and Caren Pistorius (The Light Between Oceans) as Laura Tyler. Wilkinson as the barrister gives a masterful portrayal of wisdom and sincerity in a “This is how it’s done” attitude. Scott is amazing as the solicitor that knows how to make anyone throwing a tantrum shut up. Pistorius is excellent as the epitome of  young agenda-driven lawyers today.

     Overall, Denial (2016) is a thought-provoking and multilayered film about truth and the dangers of denialism. The film follows the nature of truth in history and the abhorrence for those who manipulate facts in order to suit their own agenda. We see a contrast between the brashness of American Justice System and the conservative traditions of the English Justice System. By the end of the film, we are left with a few things to think about. History is written by the victors but does that make it the truth? If someone actually believes it can it really be considered a lie? When does free speech go too far? The answers we must decide for ourselves. I highly recommend this film to anyone who enjoys films like Lincoln (2012) and Darkest Hour (2017).

"Now, some people are saying that the result of this trial will threaten free speech. I don't accept that. I'm not attacking free speech. On the contrary, I've been defending it against someone who wanted to abuse it. Freedom of speech means you can say whatever you want. What you can't do is lie and expect not to be held accountable for it. Not all opinions are equal. And some things happened, just like we say they do. Slavery happened, the Black Death happened. The Earth is round, the ice caps are melting, and Elvis is not alive."
- Deborah Lipstadt

Final Vote
Worth Seeing:  10 of 10 stars
Worth Buying:  10 of 10 stars

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