Thursday, May 04, 2017

Denial: An Undeniably Emotional Journey Into a Horrible World

Movie Review: Denial (2016)
Version: Library Borrow

Denial is a movie for the times in which we live. It visits themes that play out in today's headlines, so it is relevant on many levels. There is denial of climate change, there is denial of racism, and in the case explored in this film, there is denial of the Holocaust, the killing of millions of Jews by German Nazis during World War II.

Professor, historian, and writer Deborah Lipstadt (played by Academy Award winner Rachel Weisz) is a seeker of truth. In her works, she has called "historian" David Irving (played by Cannes Award winner Timothy Spall) a Holocaust denier. He has sued her for libel, although she lives and works in the United States, in a British Court, where the burden of proof is on her. She is defended in court by barrister Richard Rampton (played by Academy Award nominee Tom Wilkinson), who with his team of solicitors and history students decide to prove that Irving not only is wrong about history, but he has purposely distorted history. Lipstadt wants to give voice to survivors of the Holocaust, letting them appear on the witness stand, but Rampton and his team want to deny Irving the opportunity to defame the survivors and turn the case into a stage for his deliberate denial agenda.

Rampton and his team take Lipstadt to Auschwitz to visit the famous Nazi concentration camp and gas chambers. It is a damp, dreary day. The scene is dark and ominous. Rampton visits the museum there, where the thousands of shoes and eyeglasses remained behind by the Jews killed by the Nazis are displayed. It is a grim reminder of what happened in that horrible place. We see scenes of the people of the nearby town who were forced after the war to see the camp and the horror on their faces of what happened nearby. It is a stark reminder to us, the viewers, as well.

These aren't scenes for the squeamish. The character portrayals are passionate, as they debate tactics, weighing what is at stake. It's a fine cast and the cinematography, editing, and sets blend to create a realism that takes you inside the action and drama as the story and the conflict unfold around you. Irving is portrayed as a diabolical, scheming rat, not unlike the rat-like character Spall played in the Harry Potter movie in which he appeared, perhaps why he was perfect to play this part.

As our world struggles to deal with denial of science and truth in this ever changing world, a movie like Denial is more relevant that ever. Denial becomes an important element in understanding the issues and the stakes in ensuring that truth wins out. If you haven't seen it, you should, and you should make sure everyone in your family sees it. You may just learn something while you're being entertained. If you're a denialist yourself, you may want to see Denial as a reality check.

Denial is undeniably an emotional journey into a horrible world we shouldn't have to revisit but demands we see to ensure it doesn't happen again.

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