BY ROGER THOMAS
“Schindler’s List” is my all-time favorite film. There are many reasons for that, but I will not list them all here. I will admit that before Spielberg’s Oscar-winning film, i knew about the Holocaust, but did not ponder it the way I have since 1993. Since I first saw the film, I have been much more interested in this darkest of world events.
“Denial” is the most recent film that deals with the Holocaust. The film is based on a true story. A professor at Emory University, Deborah Lipstadt, has spent her career studying and writing about the events of the Holocaust. One day when she is giving a lecture about her latest book, she is asked about a historian, David Irving. Irving says the Holocaust never happened. Lipstadt condemns Irving, not knowing he is among those gathered for the lecture. Irving goes back to the United Kingdom and sues Lipstadt. What follows is a captivating trial drama that is constantly surprising and intelligent.
Oscar- winning actress Rachel Weisz plays Lipstadt. Weisz depicts Lipstadt as a strong person who begins to struggle especially when the trial continues over several weeks. Oscar-nominated Tom Wilkinson plays Richard Rampton, Lipstadt’s British Attorney. Among the gifted cast, the stand-out performance is from Timothy Spall as Irving. There is no more vicious villain in any film this year. Of course, it would take a lot to find a character more evil than one who denies that Holocaust ever happened. Spall really deserves an Oscar nomination.
Beyond the performances, there are many other strengths in this film. I often complain about screenplays not explaining what is happening on screen. There is a lot of legal jargon in this film, but I always felt like I understood at least most of their conversations. Occasionally, some things are kept hidden for dramatic effect, but overall, the filmmakers and the screenplay do an excellent job of making all things clear.
I also appreciate that the film includes the reality that there are still people in Britain and sadly in our country as well, who celebrate the atrocities Hitler and the Nazis participated in. The trial presented on screen actually occurred in 2000, but I doubt much has changed in fifteen years. Hate still exists, and that is one of the most powerful truths of the film.
There are many powerful scenes in the film that stand out. The trip to Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp is an emotional event in the film, but I found other moments that created even stronger passions. There is a moment when Lipstadt discovers just how good her lawyer is, which is priceless. If you have ever needed to trust a lawyer, you understand the power of the moment when you realize that you can securely place your case in his hands. That moment in this film is very authentic. There are others, many other strong moments, but that one stands out.
I often write that the best films are about ideas. When I compile my list of the best films of 2016, “Denial” will be on the list. It has strong performances. The story is both frustrating, because of the actions of people filled with hate, and fascinating because the British court system is so different than our own. The film is also outstanding because the screenplay allows for novices to keep up. Then finally, there is one perfect line of dialogue that comes late in the film but sums everything up in a perfect way. It is my favorite line from a 2016 film thus far: “Not all opinions are equal.” What a simple profound truth.
In a world where hate is still often organized, for some persons prejudice is justified, and there are even those who lie and deny, let us not forget, “Not all opinions are equal.”