TIFF: Denial

denial_04Movies based on true stories were a recurring theme for us at TIFF 2016. Our festival experience included five B.O.A.T.S. in a row. My favourite of those was Denial. As a lawyer, I may be slightly biased toward legal dramas, but if you have even a passing interest in law and order (or Law & Order) then you’ll enjoy Denial.

Denial tells the tale of a defamation lawsuit brought by David Irving, British holocaust denier, against Deborah Lipstadt, American university professor. The claim is brought in England, and as a result in order to defend herself, Lipstadt is faced with proving that Irving is a liar.denial

Director Mick Jackson attended our screening and participated in a Q&A session afterward. Jackson confirmed that the courtroom scenes were word-for-word reenactments of the trial transcripts.  That was a great choice by the writers as it makes the scenes feel authentic in pace, tone and style. It was refreshing to me that the real-life scenes were allowed to stand by themselves.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the over-the-top moments a la Col. Jessep’s crossexamination in A Few Good Men, but those don’t actually ever happen in real life. Real life is much more subtle.  Denial embraces that subtlety wholeheartedly and in doing so sets itself apart from your typical lawyer movie.denial-timothy-spall

Rachel Weisz puts on her best American accent and convincingly plays targeted Professor Lipstadt as a driven, determined and difficult-to-deal-with client, and Timothy Spall is wonderfully despicable as Holocaust-denier Irving. But my favourite performance by far was Tom Wilkinson as Lipstadt’s barrister, Richard Rampton, Q.C. Wilkinson is just so fun to watch in the courtroom scenes and in the strategy sessions with Weiss and the rest of team Lipstadt, led by Andrew Scott (who, thanks to his role in Sherlock, I was sure would turn out to be the evil mastermind pulling Irving’s strings). He conveys confidence while at the same time hinting at underlying conflict. I can only hope my British accent develops to the point where one day I sound as lawyerly as Wilkinson.

While I practice my accent, you should definitely watch Denial. I give it a score of eight unhandleable truths out of ten.

 

 

 

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31 thoughts on “TIFF: Denial

    1. Sean Post author

      Revisiting the holocaust is something that the characters struggle with too. I think Denial handles it well but there are several scenes that are tough ones, including a visit to Auschwitz.

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  1. Birgit

    When my mom was a young teen, she and her mom walked by a factory( she thought) and there was a man who asked for a piece of her sandwich that she was eating. My grandmother told her to give it to him. Quickly and for a while after, my mom went by just about every day to bring him a sandwich. He gave her a handmade ring as a token of thanks. One day he wasn’t there and never appeared after. She never thought what he was truly going through and when it came out what her country had done she couldn’t believe that people could be that horribly cruel. She was ashamed about being a German and had a hard time dealing with the fact that her own countrymen did this to fellow human beings so when I hear some quack state that the holocaust never existed, I want to smack him so hard. I find it angersome and it’s hard for me to not get angry when I see a film like this. Now, don’t get me wrong, I want to see this film and I love Tom Wilkinson so I will see this film when it comes out.

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    1. Sean Post author

      Thanks for sharing your mom’s experience. Denial is a horrible thing. It makes me angry as well that people try to pretend the holocaust didn’t happen. It is not just the holocaust, either. At TIFF we also saw the Promise, about the Armenian genocide, which Turkey still does not admit to, which makes it more horrible, if that’s even possible.

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      1. Birgit

        Oh gosh, yes I want to see that film. We had neighbours who were Armenian and had family that died during this genocide. It’s disgusting that most people don’t even know this happened nev mind what happened to Hungary in 1932/33 or the millions who died during Stalin’s reign.

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  2. CineMuseFilms

    Great review of a great film. While this is not for entertainment, it is a strong story that is well told. It is also an important film, especially as we are in an era where the denialists are in power in many places around the world. I also gave it 8 out of 10; it is an under-acclaimed film.

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