TIFF Review: ‘Denial’ is an Intense Courtroom Drama

The morning mist has gathered at Auschwitz, the infamous death camp of the Nazi regime, and on the barbed wire fence has gathered a drop of water, hanging there like a tear, wept by the millions who were exterminated here. The scenes at Auschwitz are powerful and solemn, as the events that transpired there were purely evil, possibly the worst happening in the history of humanity. A legal team has gathered there to inspect the camp, to measure out the details for a case they are preparing against a man who has declared the Holocaust a lie and is suing a famous professor who has publicly disagreed with him. The professor, a Jew, does not understand the lawyers matter of factness about being at the camp, not realizing he has done what he must do to fight the case, for his own good, he has taken the humanity out of it, knowing he must.

David Irving (Timothy Spall) was once a highly regarded Hitler historian until he began twisting history to suit his own beliefs that the Holocaust is a myth created by the Jews for further wealth. Irving actually attacks a Jew for having the numbered tattoo on her arm, wondering how much money she has made from it? He publicly attacks, and then sues Deborah Lipstadt who decries him a fraud. Her publisher assembles a crack legal team in Britain, where it is all foreign to this Queens born writer, and they begin their defense, which is formidable. She realizes the lawyer on the team knows far more than he is letting on and at the trial he never once looks Irving in the eye, he will not treat him as a human being.

Tom Wilkinson gives a towering performance as her lawyer, simmering in quiet anger, despising Irving as a human being, rebuking everything the man says with cold hard facts.

Rachel Weisz is superb as Deborah, but the film belongs to Timothy Spall who is frightening as Irving, and not for being pro-Hitler, but because he presents himself as a good father, amicable, even likable, when in fact beneath the surface is a cold eyed, hate filled maniac. Wilkinson too is brilliant as the hard-drinking lawyer who does not miss a trick and when she thinks he is not taking the visit to the death camp seriously, he is committing every aspect, every inch to memory.

Well directed by Mick Jackson, it is an intense courtroom drama that dips its foot into sorrow. How could anyone deny the Holocaust? This where film becomes so much more than an art and entertainment tool, there is footage of the death camps being liberated, piles of corpses, mass graves, and the living that were found, forever scarred by their living death at that camp. How could anyone look at the faces of pain of those who lived and declare it is a myth? It is inhumane. It is an atrocity.

Rating: 3/5